Sips 'N Saddles 2015


Because of the conflict of dates we experienced last year, we moved Sips 'N Sadles to June this year. As always, it was lots of fun, a wonderful party, and we’re grateful for all our guests, our sponsors, our board, our volunteers, our staff, and our many friends who contributed as they could from where they could. We had exceptional music talents this year with Mark Wills and Templeton Thompson, mouth-watering foods from Red State Barbeque, home-made ice cream from Mad Scoops Ice Cream, excellent donated wines, and a special bourbon concoction, The American Pharoah, courtesy of Maker’s Mark. As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words, so we will be brief and let you enjoy the party with your own eyes. 


Cheery bye and we'll see you at Sips 'N Saddles next year!

Susanna






Rosie Napravnik with Dorothy Crowell aboard Dare Me


Country music star Mark Wills with Susanna

Susanna with Timothy Capps (left) of the University of Louisville
and Hall of Fame jockey Chris McCarron (right)




Templeton Thompson performed her new song
in honor of American Pharoah



The happy winners of American Pharoah's halter, with included
autographs from jockey Victor Espinoza and trainer Bob Baffert

Thanks to all of our Sips 'N Saddles Sponsors!

www.makersmark.comhttp://business.louisville.edu/equine/

http://www.prsa.org/http://www.luxuryestatesofkentucky.com/
www.highbridgesprings.comhttp://beasleyprintonline.com/www.hagyard.com
 www.nutrenaworld.comkernthoroughbreds.commurphymanorllc.comwww.paulmillerford.com






Thank You!

Thank you to all who attended Sips 'N Saddles this year! And a huge thank you to all our sponsors, volunteers, interns, board members, and staff for making Sips 'N Saddles happen. It was a wonderful night and it wouldn't have been possible without all of you.

Stay tuned for a behind-the-scenes look at Sips 'N Saddles in next week's blog, complete with a myriad of photos!


Cheery bye,
Susanna

Truth Is... Following The Heart

There are many great things about working at the MMSC, but the most rewarding of all is matching the perfect horse to the perfect adopter.  Herein follows is an example submitted by Lauren G. about her forever horse, Truth Is, that she adopted from the MMSC last November. Enjoy!  Cheery bye, Susanna 


I paid my first visit to the Maker’s Mark Secretariat Center (MMSC) in September 2014 during a trip to watch my friend Nikki compete at the Jump Start Horse Trials at the Kentucky Horse Park (“KHP”). I had competed in the event myself as a junior rider over ten years ago.  After taking a break from riding to attend law school and become an attorney, I realized horses still held a special place in my heart. I had to come back to the KHP not only to watch Nikki compete but to revive an old love.  

To be honest I hadn’t heard of the MMSC before. When Nikki convinced me and both of our husbands to run up to the Center in between her dressage and show jumping events, I thought we were visiting a KHP exhibit commemorating the great Secretariat. (My non-horsey husband probably thought we were going to a whiskey bar!) So we both eagerly hopped in our rented golf cart and headed out to the MMSC. My original guess proved (somewhat) correct. Driving up the MMSC’s long driveway, we glimpsed a majestic statute of Secretariat framed on either side by seemingly endless Kentucky paddocks full of bluegrass. The beautiful horses in the paddocks following our cart as we drove up the drive were a pleasant surprise.

Nikki explained the horses were off-the-track thoroughbreds (OTTBs) being reschooled for new careers. I was immediately intrigued because as a teenager I had owned and retrained an OTTB, Dewey, for eventing.

Lauren and Dewey

I was interested in getting a new horse, but not right away. I was a brand new attorney. Still, the prospect of looking for a new horse was exciting, so I picked up a brochure of the MMSC’s horses available for adoption. Each was unique in its own way but all shared the same Thoroughbred glow. One horse in particular caught my eye: A 17hh bay gelding named Wordsworth. I kept him in mind as we spoke with the MMSC Director, Susanna Thomas.

Susanna was incredibly kind and welcoming. I felt a bit out of place in my shorts and tank top—if I had had any idea that I would be looking at horses and meeting new people, I would have traded my grungy horse-show-groom-on-a-hot-day outfit for something more respectable. Susanna was never judgmental or condescending. In the process of telling us about her Horse Centered Reschooling Program she went out of her way to learn more about us and seemed genuinely interested in our backgrounds. I immediately felt comfortable.

Despite the fact that we hadn’t made an appointment, we were invited to observe a horse free-lunging in the arena and were shown around the barns. We met a number of horses in the barn; Nikki took the golf cart back to the KHP stables to get ready for her stadium event while Brandon, my husband Colin, and I took Susanna’s suggestion (and apples) to visit the other horses in the pastures.

We passed two women who had arrived at the Center around the same time as we who had made a beeline to Wordsworth. I heard them muttering something about his capped hock. My ears pricked up: My first OTTB, Dewey, had had a hind leg injury that caused many to doubt him. In spite of multiple missed shows and countless suggestions to sell him, he and I built strength through months of dressage training. Within a year, we began a successful eventing career which lasted until I sold him to attend college. 

Wordsworth was just as friendly as Dewey—so much so that my husband got a little jealous and jokingly used his iPhone to play sappy love music while we were bonding. The horse quickly captured my heart. Could Wordsworth be my new Dewey? Sadly it wasn’t meant to be—Susanna indicated Wordsworth had already found a perfect forever home.

Far from deterred, we left the MMSC with an unwavering commitment to find my new Dewey at some point in the future. Moreover, Susanna and Wordsworth convinced me that I could find him at the MMSC. Susanna’s astute eye for OTTBs suitable for new careers coupled with her Horse Centered Reschooling Program made the MMSC the most “logical” place to adopt a new horse. As Nikki had taken the golf cart, Susanna drove us back to the show grounds. We thanked her and said we would be back. Little did I know just how soon our return would be!

Back in Ohio, I “liked” the MMSC on Facebook so I could keep track of what the MMSC was doing. Less than two months later, a 17hh chestnut named Flashy Dresser (“Flashy”) popped up on my newsfeed in early NovemberI was taken by his good looks, kind eye, and potential for eventing. He also happened to be a chestnut with chrome just like my former OTTB Dewey! Flashy also bore a striking resemblance to California Chrome, last year’s Triple Crown hopeful. I had to meet this horse. He could be “the ONE!” Like Wordsworth, Flashy captured my heart at first sight.

I sent in my adoption application, got approved, set up an appointment to try him mid-November, and booked a hotel room. I would occasionally check the MMSC website to look at pictures and videos of Flashy as motivation to get through the challenges of my job. One day before my visit, I saw that Flashy was listed as “ADOPTION PENDING." I picked up the phone and spoke with Program Coordinator Catherine Flowers. She told me that Flashy had just been readopted by his original owners. My heart sank. Later, I got a more detailed explanation about what had happened from Susanna.

Flashy’s former owners had had a change a heart. He suffered from anhydrosis and after talking about it as a family, they felt that their son and daughter-in-laws farm in Canada is where they wanted him to be.

I understand  your disappointment," Susanna told me over the phone. "And I apologize, but I do want to honor the donors wishes. They love Flashy. He was a really good racehorse for them. Most importantly, light work and cool weather is by far the best thing for him. And to be truly Horse Centered, we have to keep his best interests at the heart of all we do. I hope you can understand my reasoning. 

"But, why dont you come to Kentucky anyway?” she suggested. "Enjoy the time with your husband? See if any other horse else appeals to you? After all, finding the right horse can take time. Why not start the process now? Just for fun. There is no need to get serious about anything."

I am not sure.... I said. I really had my mind set on Flashy.

I can appreciate that, she replied. But truth is, it has to be a heart not just a mind thing. Why dont you sleep on it, and let me know in the morning if you want to come by?"

My heart and mind raced that evening: Why was I being so stubborn and childish? Why did I care so much about a horse I hadn’t even met? Did I have a desire to nurse him back to health like Dewey? Was all of this happening for a reason? Am I meant to adopt another horse at the MMSC this weekend? Or should I stay in Ohio and work instead? Unfortunately none of these questions yielded answers overnight. In my profession, we are strongly discouraged from making “gut” decisions: instead we back up all of our arguments with logic and precedent. Here I had neither. When I got home from work I looked to my husband for guidance. We both had had draining weeks—both physically and mentally. If nothing else, a trip to Kentucky would be nice. I let Susanna know we be coming. She couldn’t have been more excited.

When we pulled up to the MMSC parking lot, Flashy was in the front pasture. My heart skipped a beat. I wished he wouldn’t come over to see us, but he eagerly walked up likely looking for treats. We couldn’t resist his charm, so we obliged. After that we went into the office where Susanna greeted us. She asked me questions about what I was looking for in a horse to determine which horses I should ride. Then she turned to my husband and inquired about my personality. After a few minutes, she indicated she had a good idea of which horses would be best for me. However, she wouldnt tell me.  She wanted me to go to the barn to pick them myself. 

A volunteer took me to the barn where I met Double Minded (“Dublin”), Jazz Fest (“Jay Z”), Truth Is (“Truth”) and Meteor Shot (“Shooter”). I was most drawn to Dublin, a bay gelding who had just finished racing the weekend prior. He was about Dewey’s size and was incredibly sweet. I told Susanna he was first horse I wanted to try. She seemed a bit surprised. Clearly she had another horse in mind.

Just a week or so off the track, Dublin was tense and very much in “racetrack mode.” After taking six years off of riding for school, I was equally tense and unsure of myself. 

Susanna suggested that I try Truth Is, an athletic dark bay Thoroughbred with a “bleeding heart” marking on his handsome forhead.  I had seen his video online. I was hesitant about his habit of sticking his tongue out to the side. Like many Thoroughbreds, Truth’s tongue had been tied down to his lower jaw before a race to keep from swallowing his tongue while racing which many horses will do at high speeds. This habit was a vestige from his racing days.   Although I found Truth’s protruding floppy tongue amusing, I knew dressage judges did not. Nevertheless, I agreed to try him.  

I was amazed, however, when it became apparent to me that Truth had more natural talent than any horse I had ever ridden.  Despite my being rusty, he understood when I asked him to bend and to be “on the bit.”  He also had a big, lofty canter and was able to lengthen and shorten his strides with ease. Not that he was perfect:  He stuck out his tongue and was a bit stubborn when jumping fences for the first time. However, I reminded myself that he had only been ridden a handful of times since his last race in August.  Susanna, who pays very close attention to how the horses act when any potential adopter rides, was pleased with the fit. Truth, like many Thoroughbreds was, picky about his riders.  He went really well for me, forward, relaxed, and not fussy with his head or sticky off my leg. I had felt that. Deep down I knew that we had something special.
It was evident on their first ride that Truth and Lauren had a connection.

Over lunch, my husband and I sent videos to my friend, Nikki, who had introduced me to the MMSC. She agreed that Truth was talented. We went back to the MMSC and tried Jay Z. He was handsome and athletic, but the fit wasn’t quite right.  But did that mean Truth was the horse for me?  I wasn’t ready to make a choice just yet.

After mulling over the decision for a few days, my husband and I loaded the videos from our visit to the MMSC on our TV screen and had a “movie night.” Despite Colinlack of experience with horses, he noticed  that Truth and I had a compatibility and connection that I didn’t have with the other horses I had tried. At that point we mutually agreed that Truth was “the one." I called Susanna the next day with the good news: Truth had captured my heart.

Because I couldn’t leave work mid-week, Nikki and her husband, Brandon, made a generous offer to pick him up for me.  They endured Ohio traffic and my frequent texts asking for updates to bring him home to our farm in Northeast Ohio.  After work that day I drove hurriedly to the farm, ran into the barn (without changing out of my work suit and heels) and gave Truth a huge hug.  He was mine and I couldn’t be happier!  

Winter was long and at times brutal yet Truth and I managed to fine tune some basic dressage, do a little gymnastic schooling here and there and ride out in the country as we could. I was trilled with his intelligence and willingness to please. 
Colin, Truth Is, and Lauren
He even corrected me when our signals crossed.  I knew we had something special.  We had no intention of competing early in the year, but Truth continued to improve so much into the spring and seemed to be telling  me he was ready to try something.
  So In May, we attended our first show—a USEA-recognized event and a hunter pace.  We placed seventh at the event and second at the hunter pace!  I was thrilled beyond belief and was so happy with and for Truth!  We've received a number of complements about him and I was proud to tell everyone I adopted Truth from the MMSC.  Unbelieveably we are planning on coming back to the Kentucky Horse Park this fall to compete ourselves in the Jump Start Trials!  Talk about coming full circle in a year!  


But it is not just the shows that inspire me and bring me pleasure. Truth has taught me so much about myself in our short time together, the most important lesson of which has been follow your heart, rather than what you perceive is logical. I recently made the difficult decision to leave my job at an international law firm for a position that more closely aligns with my interests and allows me to spend more time with Truth. Thanks to the MMSC, I have found, I firmly believe, the horse of a lifetime! I want to spend as much time with him as possible. If the first few months have been any indication, Truth has so much more to give.  I am truly fortunate to own a horse with such a big heart—and I am not just talking about the one on his forehead!


Lauren G.



Why is vestige highlighted?

Because it is  the Blog Word of the Day:

 Help us reach our goal of 112,000 total blog visitors this year! Join our Word of the Day contest and you could be entered in a grand prize drawing to win a $500 horse credit at the MMSC or a Breyer model of Secretariat signed by Secretariat’s jockey Ron Turcotte! Simply read the blog every Sunday and find the highlighted Word of the Day. Then write a sentence using the word and submit it to mmsc04@gmail.com for a chance to be entered to win! Please read the full contest details below before submitting an entry.
  • Blogs will be posted on Sundays. A chosen word will be highlighted within each blog post.
  • Sentences using the highlighted word must be emailed to mmsc04@gmail.com with the subject line “Word of the Day Contest”.
  • Entries may be submitted each week following a blog post from the posted time through Thursday at 5:00 pm.
  • Winners will be posted on the MMSC Facebook page each Friday following a blog post.
  • Entries must include the highlighted word of the day. The word of the day may be used in other parts of speech other than the one used in the blog, i.e. the highlighted word in the blog may be "malleability" but entrants may use the more common form "malleable" in their sentences.
  • Entries must also include the entrant’s full name (first and last) and email address.
  • Entrants may submit more than one sentence for consideration.
  • Sentences will be judged based on correct use of the word of the day, grammar and sentence structure, and creativity. 
  • Sentences will be judged by the MMSC staff, including MMSC Director Susanna Thomas, MMSC Barn and Media Manager Catherine Flowers, and MMSC Office Manager Lori Tobin.
  • Winners of each word of the day contest throughout the year will be entered in a grand prize drawing to win their choice of either a $500 horse credit toward an MMSC horse available for adoption or a Breyer model of Secretariat signed by Ron Turcotte. To use the $500 horse credit, the winner must become an approved adopter with the MMSC and follow all adoption policies and procedures.
  • The grand prize drawing will be held at the end of the year after Christmas and prior to New Year’s Eve.
  • Please note: The MMSC requires at least 100 distinct and individual entries in this contest in order to announce a grand prize winner at the end of the year.
  • Disclaimer: This contest does not have a connection with Blogspot or Facebook in any way and is not sponsored, supported, or organized by Blogspot or Facebook. The recipient of the information provided by you is not Blogspot or Facebook but the Maker's Mark Secretariat Center.

Triple Crown 2015!

It has happened. It’s been such a long wait.  37 years. Many thought it would never happen again. That’s what the wizened little guy at the bar at Ramsey’s restaurant told me last night when I went to pick up my “to go” dinner order.

He was downing a beer staring at the TV racing coverage overhead.

“Do you think American Pharoah will win?” I asked him as I waited for my order.

He took a deep swig. “Nah,” he answered, scoffing. 

He had the face, parched and cracked like drought stricken earth, of a race-tracker. Could be. After all Keeneland, the race course, was only a mile or two down the road. He was a small man. Stubby fingers with calloused knuckles encirled his beer glass.

“Why not?” I asked.

“They never do any more. It’s too hard.” He shrugged. 

American Pharoah winning the Kentucky Derby
“Sure is," I replied. “But I think he’s going to win. He’s a remarkable horse. Besides, I am a hopeless optimist, I told him, smiling.

My meal appeared so I wished him goodnight and I was back in my car in a flash trying to get home before the last race of the day at the Belmont Racetrack in New York, the Belmont Stakes, the last leg of the Triple Crown.

The Triple Crown refers to a trio of races for three year old Thoroughbreds: The Kentucky Derby, the Preakness, and the Belmont Stakes that take place between May and June every year. It was first won by Sir Barton in 1919 but wasn’t popularized as a concept until 1930 when it was won by a horse named Gallant Fox. In 1950 a special trophy was designed to go along with the title. Until yesterday, only 11 horses had won the Triple Crown. The last one, Affirmed, did so in 1978. In the ensuing years 13 horses had captured the first two jewels of the crown only to lose the coveted third, the mile and a half Belmont Stakes. I had watched every attempt over almost four decades now. Each time I came away saddened, my sense of resignation growing larger each time. 

But as I said, I am a hopeless optimist. This year, as in other years past, I mustered support and enthusiasm for the Triple Crown contender. I suppose it wouldn’t have mattered if American Pharoah had had two heads and one eye, I would be rooting for him to win the third and final leg of this elusive prize. With a declining fan base, a tsunami of shocking press about racing’s drugs and thugs, the harrowing breakdowns on the track, the glut of mediocre horses that have no where to go after the racetrack, the fighting and biting amongst the racing jurisdictions, not to mention the naysayers within and beyond the sport, racing needed a Triple Crown winner. 

I needed a Triple Crown winner too. To work for a non-profit you have to have passion for your cause. To work for a non-profit of used luxury items, i.e. former racehorses, you need optimism. Ask not what your racehorse can do for you but what you do for your racehorse, is not a widespread motto in the racing world. This is not to say that owners and breeders across the board don’t care about the horses! Many do and there are responsible people out there doing what they can for the horses that they have bred, owned, and trained. But there are plenty of others who pay lip service to caring about their horses, who don’t put their money where their mouths are, who do too little to create meaningful change, who aren’t willing to pay for their horses continuously or at all once their racing days are done. And how about those people who do nothing but go to the races, bet on the races, dress up for the races, have fun at the races and all the while think nothing about the needs of the sentient beings that are entertaining them? Aren’t these people as complicit as the others directly involved in the industry? It’s not good when I linger on these kinds of thoughts. They deflate me. Finding the emotional wherewithal to sustain the constant drive to raise awareness and money and concern about retired racehorses in a way that inspires people can be waring. When I fail to garner support and interest I get discouraged.

And then I see a horse like American Pharoah, a horse with eyes that gleam with intelligence and a staggering ground covering stride and turn of foot so quick and so light he glides. This is a horse born and bred to run. A star to dazzle all who love the sport. An inspiration to all who care for the ones of lesser talent but which also deserve our attention.

I got home from the MMSC yesterday just as the horses were being led into the paddock at Belmont for the race.  I saw the riders thrown up and the parade onto the track.  I watched the horses load into the starting gate; I held my breath, and then THEY WERE OFF!  My heart skipped a beat when I saw American Pharoah lurch backwards in the starting gate and then lunge forward. Would he be okay? Would it set him back? No! Unphased, he surged forward, into first place. And then, I watched in frozen fascination as he surged down the backstretch. For every stride he took, others seemed to take a half or a full stride more. He was relaxed and commanding. Time seemed to stand still. I knew right then, even though there was so much more to go, that he was going to do it, and I was savoring every footfall.

He came around the turn and my husband and I jumped up from our seats and stepped to within two feet of the television. We could hear the rising roar of the crowd at Belmont. We joined in, hopping up and down, throwing our arms around in the air, flailing. We screamed American Pharoah on, calling out his name along with endearments and encouragement as if he could hear, as if he were ours. 

We knew he had done it even before he crossed the finish line. When he did so, we burst into tears and embraced one another. It was joy. It was disbelief. It was the clearing of years of disappointment. It was inspiration. Like the many thousands at Belmont, we stood tall as American Pharoah paraded before the crowd, giving him the ovation he so richly deserved. We were spellbound. It was a magical moment. 


American Pharoah, you make me proud of Thoroughbreds. You make me marvel at the sport of racing. You make me grateful for what I do at the MMSC every day.  You have given of yourself in a way that is an inspiration to so many. 

With all my heart, THANK YOU!


Susanna

Holy Moses

The shed row in Mr. Tom’s barn at the training center is neatly raked in a herringbone pattern. Racehorses with gleaming coats hang their heads out over the stall guards. The help, all female, have welcoming smiles. The five-year-old gelding I had come to see had had 19 career starts, with four firsts, two seconds, and three thirds, in the money 47% of the time. In the last six months he had slipped down in class and was racing in $5,ooo claimers. His owner who bred him and cared a great deal for him, felt it was time to give him a new life, before he was claimed away, before he broke down. I love owners like that. I told the him so when he called me about the horse and asked me to go look at him.

“What’s his name?” I asked.

“Holy Moses,” he replied.  “He’s by Holy Bull out of an Affirmed mare named So Right.”

“That’s the BEST NAME!!” I told him. I meant it too.  A good, strong name that made me smile.  

When Mr. Tom unhooked the stall guard and I stepped inside, Holy Moses was facing the wall. The first thing that impressed me was his thick and lustrous tail. You rarely see a natural one like that. It was attached to a lovely blood bay rump. 

I lingered at the threshold. "Hey, Moses,” I said quietly. Years ago I had learned from my Andalusian stallion, Legado, that horses value their space and their privacy. We humans need to heed and respect that. I was new in my relationship with Legado. I had never had an Andalusian, an amazingly perceptive and sensitive breed. I had handled TB colts, but not stallions. As usual I was in a hurry to get through my barn day. I swooped up Legado’s halter and barged in. He was munching hay at the front of the stall. His head shot up, his nostrils flared and he whirled around showing me his fine rump, and cocking his right hind foot. Then he looked back at me and fixed me in with a stern paternal stare.

“RUDE dear girl! EXCEEDINGLY RUDE!” his look said. “Start over, please.”

So I did, backing up, shutting the door, and reopening it. “Hello, Legado. May I come in?” He peered at me. Then he tossed his head slightly, turned around, and walked straight up to me.  

Legado has taught me to be mannerly around a horse.
I have never forgotten that lesson.

I applied it with Moses. I stood at the front of the stall and waited for him to acknowledge my greeting. He stayed against the back wall but he did look at me. I took a took a small step closer and stretched out my hand for him to sniff.

His expression changed from defensive to surprised and he stepped in my direction.

“Would you like to come out of the stall so I can look at you, Moses?  Is that possible, Mr. Tom?”

“Sure Susanna,” he said. When he led  Moses out, I noticed that his feet had been freshly painted. I appreciated the attention to detail. The horse was in beautiful condition. 

Moses had raced the day before in a $5000 claimer and won. His ankles, although enlarged and knobby, had no effusion and only the right one had a bit of heat. I've seen ankles a day after cross country that looked worse. The tendons were smooth and tight. Like all racehorses when trotted out, he was skittish but I caught glimpses of good reach with his shoulder and his steps were even.

I put great stock in a horse’s eye. Conformation is important. Injury history is crucial. But the trump card that will make or break my decision of whether to take a horse on or not always, without fail, is the eye. Specifically what I see in there, and, as I have said many times, my gut reaction to it.

Moses had the expression of an infantry soldier, dutiful and guarded. This was a horse who knew and did his job, a horse that didn’t demand or expect much from people. He was told what to do. He did it. End of story. 

“What a good man, you are Moses,” I said to him in a slow voice. I let him smell my hand. “My I touch you?” He stared at me and then tolerated my slow scratching of his forehead.
Moses was in amazing condition the day that I first saw him at the track
When I stroked his neck, he flinched and raised it out of reach. His muscles felt like concrete. When I ran my hand down his back, he buckled slightly. Clearly this horse was sore. I knew why: his sacrum was maligned and he had cervical disks going every which way. I could tell that from how he walked. And things had been out for a while. That’s why he lacked at topline and and had developed a huge underneck muscle to compensate.

I went back to his head and stroked his forelock. His eye got soft. He sighed.
By the end of our first meeting at the track,
 Moses’ eye got soft and kind.
“I think he’d be a great candidate for the MMSC,” I said, “but first I would need a set of x-rays on those ankles first to see what’s going with him and what he can and cannot do.”

I got lucky. The owner sent me x-rays not only of the ankles, but of every joint! I forwarded them on to our vet, Dr. True Baker at Hagyard, and he got back to me right away. “Nothing to worry about.”

So Moses came to the MMSC. I was out when he arrived but as soon as I came into the office, I was told about his arrival. I went straight to the barn.

“What do you think of him?” I asked the interns who were with me.  

“He’s got no topline,” said one.

“And a huge underneck,” said another.

“He’s really nervous,” said Hannah, “but I think he’s cute.”

“Do you, Hannah?" I looked at her. “Then you’re going to be the one assigned to to the job of socializing him!” I told her.

I opened the stall door and showed her what Legado had taught me. I demonstrated how to stroke Moses always being mindful of where he flinched and how much pressure he could tolerate. Moses was stand-offish, his eye defensive.

“I call that the ‘Noli me tangere’ look, Hannah. Ever heard that phrase? It’s Latin meaning ‘Don’t touch me.’ Jesus said it to Mary Magdalene when she saw him for the first time outside of his grave. Your job will be to change his expression to a soft welcoming one.”

She looked dubiously at me.

“Oh, don’t worry. He will come around quickly. You’ll start seeing the change in a few days. In a month, he’ll be a different horse.

“How do you know?”

“I just know. I saw it in his eye. This horse has big heart. He wants to be of service. Mark my words, he is the most magnanimous horse in the barn. And he has the best name and the best tail in the barn to boot!”

Cheery bye,
Susanna


Why is lustrous highlighted?

Because it is  the Blog Word of the Day:

 Help us reach our goal of 112,000 total blog visitors this year! Join our Word of the Day contest and you could be entered in a grand prize drawing to win a $500 horse credit at the MMSC or a Breyer model of Secretariat signed by Secretariat’s jockey Ron Turcotte! Simply read the blog every Sunday and find the highlighted Word of the Day. Then write a sentence using the word and submit it to mmsc04@gmail.com for a chance to be entered to win! Please read the full contest details below before submitting an entry.
  • Blogs will be posted on Sundays. A chosen word will be highlighted within each blog post.
  • Sentences using the highlighted word must be emailed to mmsc04@gmail.com with the subject line “Word of the Day Contest”.
  • Entries may be submitted each week following a blog post from the posted time through Thursday at 5:00 pm.
  • Winners will be posted on the MMSC Facebook page each Friday following a blog post.
  • Entries must include the highlighted word of the day. The word of the day may be used in other parts of speech other than the one used in the blog, i.e. the highlighted word in the blog may be "malleability" but entrants may use the more common form "malleable" in their sentences.
  • Entries must also include the entrant’s full name (first and last) and email address.
  • Entrants may submit more than one sentence for consideration.
  • Sentences will be judged based on correct use of the word of the day, grammar and sentence structure, and creativity. 
  • Sentences will be judged by the MMSC staff, including MMSC Director Susanna Thomas, MMSC Barn and Media Manager Catherine Flowers, and MMSC Office Manager Lori Tobin.
  • Winners of each word of the day contest throughout the year will be entered in a grand prize drawing to win their choice of either a $500 horse credit toward an MMSC horse available for adoption or a Breyer model of Secretariat signed by Ron Turcotte. To use the $500 horse credit, the winner must become an approved adopter with the MMSC and follow all adoption policies and procedures.
  • The grand prize drawing will be held at the end of the year after Christmas and prior to New Year’s Eve.
  • Please note: The MMSC requires at least 100 distinct and individual entries in this contest in order to announce a grand prize winner at the end of the year.
  • Disclaimer: This contest does not have a connection with Blogspot or Facebook in any way and is not sponsored, supported, or organized by Blogspot or Facebook. The recipient of the information provided by you is not Blogspot or Facebook but the Maker's Mark Secretariat Center.

True North

We all have an inner compass. It’s located in our gut which, like our brain is loaded with neurotransmitters. Our heads, however, are garrulous and weighty with their own self importance. Our gut speaks humbly and quietly. That’s why we often ignore it. At a steep price! Block out that inner GPS and you will deviate from your own true north, missing your destination. At best, that’s annoying and expensive. At worst, it’s heartbreaking and risky, especially when it comes to horses.  So I try to listen to that inner voice at all times.

But I get busy and harried. I worry daily about the MMSC’s bottom line. I see every invoice and strive to cut costs while maintaining the highest standards in all that we do with and for our horses. When a horse gets adopted, I feel an enormous pressure to get it shipped out so it stops incurring costs. Besides I have horses waiting to come in. I have people waiting for new horses. Grant donors want to see how many horses you have moved through your program in a year. Board members do too. (Or at least, I want the board members to be happy!) The voices in my head surge like a mighty chorus drowning out the inner small, still one despite my best intentions. This week was the perfect example. Thankfully, a horse and young girl came to my inner voice’s rescue, saving me from a disturbing deviation.

In early April we had a visit from a mother and her fourteen year old daughter who needed to make a transition from ponies to her first horse. The trainer came too to make sure that she got the absolutely right horse, a confidence building mount with scope. The young girl had been researching off track Thoroughbreds and was heart bound to adopt one. There was one at the MMSC that she had had her eye on Jazz Fest (“Jay-Z). In fact, based on what she had seen on the website, in her mind he was already hers. But as it so often happens, when she rode him, they had no karma.






So she tried two others, Double Minded (“Dublin”) and Pain Giver (“Rondo"). Dublin (left) was the perfect transition for a young person going from a pony to a horse, kind and reliable, but limited in scope. 

Rondo (right)  came to the MMSC fully schooled. He jumped 3.6" He did lead changes. He had been to shows. He came off the track as a two year old and was scooped up by a talented teenaged rider named Sam. They  grew up together over the ensuing four years. Once, out of school, however, Sam couldn’t give Rondo the time and care he deserved, so she gave him to her aunt who had a riding school where, Lilly, our interim barn manager, was working. On the surface it seemed a good plan: Sam could keep track of Rondo and ride him when visiting. But Rondo didn’t take to being a school horse. He is a sensitive, monogamous one-rider-only kind of horse. Multiple riders of varying levels flustered and annoyed him. He grew tense, defensive, and peevish. Lilly, Sam, and Sam’s aunt knew that he needed a different solution. So he came to the MMSC to find his new forever person.

As fate would have it, when the fourteen year old started with Rondo, the heavens opened up.  She tried valiantly to ride in the driving rain but when lightening flashed nearby, she had to give up. It wasn’t much of a trial.

I knew that. But I thought she rode him well, and despite horrible weather, he was very good with her, which was a really good sign.  On the other hand, Rondo had shadows. He had come to the MMSC needing emotional and mental stability. It would take time and finesse to bond with him. There was no telling when or how his angst or anger might resurge and be expressed. That made him a tricky fit for anyone, most especially a 14 year old girl. 

She would need to try him again, but that was hard because she lived twelve hours away on the East Coast. I had to wait another month before they could return to the MMSC. The trainer rode Jay-Z and all was well. The fourteen year old got on Rondo and all hell broke loose. He jigged, spooked, skittered and bucked.  She blanched, not because she was scared.  She was devastated, convinced that he had cast his die: He didn’t like her.

I turned to Rondo’s original owner, Sam, who had come that day to the MMSC at my request to help if need be. 

“Can you get on your horse and see what’s going on?” I asked.

“Sure,” she said.

Rondo was much worse with Sam on his back, bucking, lunging, and bolting.

She pulled him up promptly. “Something is not right! Maybe it’s this young ladie's saddle?”

So we replaced it with Sam’s saddle. I noticed that Rondo flinched when I touched the ribs on his right side. He kicked out when I ran my hand under his belly on the left.  I doubted Sam’s saddle would change anything. It didn’t. He was in pain.

“Let’s put him on the theraplate with the revitavet on his back,” I suggested.

Twenty minutes later, observing his calmer demeanor and softer eye after these therapies, I decided to have Sam get back on him with a bareback pad to gauge where we were. 

He was a different horse. Next we put the young lady's saddle on just to see if that was the deterring factor. No. He was the old Rondo. No antics. Willing. Kind.

“You want to ride him?” I asked the girl. She thought about it and gave a tentative yes. Rondo was a gentleman with her. But I was sure there was more to it as his behavior had been so abnormal.
“We have given him a reprieve, but I dont think he's fixed I told the trio. "I am going to call the chiropractor to see if he can come right now. If he can come soon, might you delay your trip back to the East Coast to see what he says?” I asked.

They agreed and waited until 5 PM. The chiropractor’s pronouncement came as no surprise: “He’s a skeletal train wreck!” Rondo’s ribcage was dropped and his sternum malaligned, as if he had received a blow to the back from a rambunctious playmate in the field. When his ribcage was jolted back into place, the horse let out a groan of relief that was audible throughout the barn.

“Leave him up tonight. Turn him out by himself for the next few days. Don’t ride him for a bit,” the chiropractor instructed.

After he left, the four of us sat on the floor of the shed row and talked about what to do next. The young girl wanted to stay the night and ride Rondo in the morning, but because of their tight schedule and the chiropractor’s instructions, that couldn’t happen. 

I asked if they could return the next weekend. That was out of the cards.

“How about if I send you some videos of Rondo when he is in good shape? Then maybe we can ship him to you if you decide you want him?”

We all settled on that. The girl fell silent, her face a study of worry and disappointment. I noticed, but let my brain override the observation. I was desperate to make room for new horses. 

So when the time was right--meaning when Rondo was in good shape, no rain, right rider, etc. we got the video and sent it on. Mother and trainer agreed that he had greatly improved.

 “I have to bring other horses in and begin reschooling them. I am behind schedule! I need the two horses out of here next week.”  They understood.

Then roadblocks began to surface. They couldn’t find a shipper. The timing was wrong for them because of a horse show. The expense of transit seemed too high. The worries about the fit of the pair surfaced. The trainer suggested a 60 day trial. 

I got frustrated. What was going on?   A “de-railed” feeling rumbled in my gut. Finally, it hit me! I had overridden my inner voice! 

So that night on my way home I called the trainer.

“Hey, I’ve had a realization. You and I both know that Rondo is a lovely horse. He has the scope to take your student a long way. She rode him well both times and he was good with her, despite the extenuating circumstances--the thunderstorm, the pain. It  could be a perfect fit.”

“Correct,” she said, matter-of-factly.  

“But I have left out a crucial piece in this process. I want everyone who adopts a horse from the MMSC to have pinwheels of excitement in their eyes. But that’s not the case here. Which is why you suggested a 60 day trial period. And why your aruswnr was so keen to come back to try him a third time.  I finally get it. I apologize. I was feeling harried by the MMSC’s needs. But what I feel and I need doesn’t matter. Only your student’s and Rondo’s needs and feelings do."

“Correct.”

“Please believe me when I say that my intentions are always to be horse centered. But the day to day pressures of running a non profit like this one where I am tending to sentient beings with daily needs and huge expenses wear me down. Taking the road less traveled is hard. Short cuts are enticing. I am tempted to settle. But thanks to my noisy gut, I realize it would be wrong of me to put Rondo on that long trailer ride without the assurance that this young lady is prepared to be his partner, come what may. Who wants to walk down the aisle on a 60 day trial?  I can’t do that to her or to Rondo.  She has to come back to try him again to make sure it's love. Do you think that can happen?"

“I’ll talk to them. Yes, that is what should happen,” she said.

I hung up the phone, in peace. Forget about the expenses, the grant numbers, or my pleasing the board. One has to fight the currents and winds to stay the course. By finally listening to my inner compass, I was, once again, heading true north.

Cheery bye,
Susanna


Why is garrulous highlighted?

Because it is  the Blog Word of the Day:

 Help us reach our goal of 112,000 total blog visitors this year! Join our Word of the Day contest and you could be entered in a grand prize drawing to win a $500 horse credit at the MMSC or a Breyer model of Secretariat signed by Secretariat’s jockey Ron Turcotte! Simply read the blog every Sunday and find the highlighted Word of the Day. Then write a sentence using the word and submit it to mmsc04@gmail.com for a chance to be entered to win! Please read the full contest details below before submitting an entry.
  • Blogs will be posted on Sundays. A chosen word will be highlighted within each blog post.
  • Sentences using the highlighted word must be emailed to mmsc04@gmail.com with the subject line “Word of the Day Contest”.
  • Entries may be submitted each week following a blog post from the posted time through Thursday at 5:00 pm.
  • Winners will be posted on the MMSC Facebook page each Friday following a blog post.
  • Entries must include the highlighted word of the day. The word of the day may be used in other parts of speech other than the one used in the blog, i.e. the highlighted word in the blog may be "malleability" but entrants may use the more common form "malleable" in their sentences.
  • Entries must also include the entrant’s full name (first and last) and email address.
  • Entrants may submit more than one sentence for consideration.
  • Sentences will be judged based on correct use of the word of the day, grammar and sentence structure, and creativity. 
  • Sentences will be judged by the MMSC staff, including MMSC Director Susanna Thomas, MMSC Barn and Media Manager Catherine Flowers, and MMSC Office Manager Lori Tobin.
  • Winners of each word of the day contest throughout the year will be entered in a grand prize drawing to win their choice of either a $500 horse credit toward an MMSC horse available for adoption or a Breyer model of Secretariat signed by Ron Turcotte. To use the $500 horse credit, the winner must become an approved adopter with the MMSC and follow all adoption policies and procedures.
  • The grand prize drawing will be held at the end of the year after Christmas and prior to New Year’s Eve.
  • Please note: The MMSC requires at least 100 distinct and individual entries in this contest in order to announce a grand prize winner at the end of the year.
  • Disclaimer: This contest does not have a connection with Blogspot or Facebook in any way and is not sponsored, supported, or organized by Blogspot or Facebook. The recipient of the information provided by you is not Blogspot or Facebook but the Maker's Mark Secretariat Center.

ROLEX

Rolex is the the MMSC’s annual Armageddon. It’s probably the Kentucky Horse Park’s too. The entire park is rented to EEI—Equestrian Events, Inc. to put on the one and only international 4 star event in America. People stream in from across the country and around the globe. For four days the park teems with a crowd of over 75,000 - spectators, vendors, and security. Golf carts swarm on the roads like drones. In barns, grooms bustle tending to spectacular horseflesh primed like prize fighters, muscles taut, gleaming with health, power and possibility. They have a sobering task: to compete in a titanic triathlon of equestrian disciplines: testing their obedience and grace in the first phase of dressage, their athleticism and courage in the long and daunting cross country course, and their endurance and accuracy in the tricky stadium jumping portion. The reward is $100,ooo and a lovely Rolex watch. Nice, yes. But the true gain is the prestige - many have tried, few have succeeded in the last thirty plus years. Those who do become household names in the event world.
Phase one, dressage
Phase two, cross country
Phase three, stadium jumping
We didn’t have much time to prepare for Rolex this year. You know—the late start to our season, the snows, the monsoons, the Duchess of Cornwall (read my earlier blogs to get up to speed!). Then there was the Run the Bluegrass family day, the Keeneland excursion, throw in a board meeting, visits from Auburn University and the Royal College of Agriculture from England, an epidemic of scurrilous skin disease roaring through the barn, a slew of lost shoes, a bunch of abscesses, and you get the picture. 

But the show must go on. We get our horses as presentable and as schooled as possible. We assemble a small army of volunteers - a team in the barn, a team at our booth in the vendor arena, someone in the office at all times, someone driving the shuttle. It’s truly amazing to me how many people assemble when we put out the call for help. If you are one of them reading this blog, THANK YOU!

For years Felix, my 2006 Equinox, was our shuttle. May he rest in peace. He has been replaced by Jeremy, a 2004 Volvo XC90. Jeremy is quirkier than Felix. His dash flashes incomprehensible messages. His windows and moonroof leak. His rear seats refuse to budge. Nonetheless he is stalwart and serviceable. And the shuttle price is right: FREE. But this year he was shunned. No amount of smiling or explanations or even offers of Dove chocolates could sway the state troopers to let Jeremy run the mile and a half between the MMSC and our booth. This was grievous as Rolex is our biggest opportunity to showcase our horses and to get them adopted out. I tried using an alternate route that avoided the public. No go. I asked if we could rent a golf cart. Not for private citizens. I inquired about the KHP trolley. Booked. I made phone calls. Two actually. That’s the magic number my mother of “Trust But Verify” fame told me one needs to get to anyone you need. She was right. Two phone calls later we had the keys to a golf cart. Granted we had to pay for it (would anyone like to to make a contribution to cover the $590 cost? If so, go to www.secretariatcenter.org and hit “donate”), and it was small - four seats, although at one point we squeezed in nine souls. We got wet and cold running back and forth, but it was transport, and people came, as they always do in droves to look at and try our horses.


Intern, Maggie, was one of many manning the booth

The booth was busy too. People stopped to watch the videos of available horses, to look at the saddle pads, T-shirts, tote bags, and tumblers we had for sale.

They asked questions. They dropped money in our donation bowl. Many, many former adopters (I have been at the MMSC for eight years and have placed close to 300 horses in that time!) stopped by to show off pictures of their MMSC horses, to relay tales of their exploits, to give hugs and thanks for pairing them up with their best friend. It’s amazing. And humbling. There is nothing so satisfying as being of service to something bigger than oneself.

And then there were the inevitable snafus: The coffee pot didn’t work. The chocolates ran out. As we are always trying to make ends meet, we go through our inventory of donated stuff and sell what we are not able to use. This year, a vendor saw her product on our table that had been given to us by a board member two years ago and hit the roof. Speaking of the roof, the roof above our table leaked and doused us and our merchandise. Across from us was an empty booth crammed with vendor boxes and detritus. On the right we were hedged by a trio of commando-sized garbage cans. Not chic. Oh well. People still came. They still bought things. They asked about our horses and our mission. They gave hugs. All was well.

Sunday morning before the stadium jumping is usually a quiet time. Not this year. I am a big admirer of the Retired Racehorse Project, a non-profit that was founded four years ago to market Thoroughbreds in second careers. For the last two years, RRP has put on a “Thoroughbred Makeover’” that showcases what a TB can learn in a very short amount of time since it was retired from racing. In October the Makeover is going to be held at the Kentucky Horse Park for the first time. There were 250 entries to this event originally, which founder Steuart Pittman thought were unlikely to fill up. They filled up so fast that the RRP had to increase its available entries to 350. Those entries, too, flew out the door in a less than two weeks. Within six weeks of announcing the Makeover, every spot was taken, including some by us. (We have three spots still available!)


Rosie Napravnik talking about her RRP Makeover mount, Dare Me

Dorothy Crowell talking about possible choice of Carry Forward
Cathy Wieschhoff working with a possible Makeover selection
On Sunday morning we decided to showcase our Makeover Dream Team: Famed jockey Rosie Napravnik and Dorothy Trapp Crowell of international eventing fame. Rosie had already selected her MMSC horse—Dare Me and was going to tell the crowd what she liked about him and why. Dorothy was going to pick one of three horses we had for her. Event rider Cathy Wieschhoff came as well because a mare of ours had caught her eye. She, too,  joined the panel to talk about what she looks for in a horse. As did Steuart, a seasoned event rider and instructor himself.  

Over sixty people made it up to the Center, on foot, by car (no state troopers that morning), or crammed into our little golf cart that zipped back and forth. They watched Dorothy and Cathy work horses in the round pen and our riders in the arena while each professional talked about what he or she saw. They drank coffee and ate doughnuts, and looked at all of our available horses, and then, suddenly out of nowhere…THE TROLLEY ARRIVED in time to take people back to the show jumping arena for the last phase of the competition. Talk about a Godsend!

The rest of the day flew by.  Gold medalist German rider Michael Jung came in first on his mare FischerRocana. I never saw any of his rides, or anyone’s rides for that matter. The last spectators trickled out around 5:30. We broke down our booth, took care of our horses. Everyone was bleary-eyed and spent. We dribbled out slowly, one by one. Feet dragging. Yawning. Not talking much. I got home at 8:30 and was in bed fifteen minutes later. But Rolex is always like that, exhausting but exhilarating—unbelievably so. The amazing horses, the tumult of people, the old friends, the new ones, the flurry of adoptions, the ka-ching of sales, our soggy clothes, sunburnt cheeks, tired feet, dusty hair. It’s all part of it. And truly, I look forward to it every year!

Cheery bye,
Susanna 
Congratulations Michael Jung and FisherRocana!

Why is scurrilous highlighted?

Because it is  the Blog Word of the Day:

 Help us reach our goal of 112,000 total blog visitors this year! Join our Word of the Day contest and you could be entered in a grand prize drawing to win a $500 horse credit at the MMSC or a Breyer model of Secretariat signed by Secretariat’s jockey Ron Turcotte! Simply read the blog every Sunday and find the highlighted Word of the Day. Then write a sentence using the word and submit it to mmsc04@gmail.com for a chance to be entered to win! Please read the full contest details below before submitting an entry.
  • Blogs will be posted on Sundays. A chosen word will be highlighted within each blog post.
  • Sentences using the highlighted word must be emailed to mmsc04@gmail.com with the subject line “Word of the Day Contest”.
  • Entries may be submitted each week following a blog post from the posted time through Thursday at 5:00 pm.
  • Winners will be posted on the MMSC Facebook page each Friday following a blog post.
  • Entries must include the highlighted word of the day. The word of the day may be used in other parts of speech other than the one used in the blog, i.e. the highlighted word in the blog may be "malleability" but entrants may use the more common form "malleable" in their sentences.
  • Entries must also include the entrant’s full name (first and last) and email address.
  • Entrants may submit more than one sentence for consideration.
  • Sentences will be judged based on correct use of the word of the day, grammar and sentence structure, and creativity. 
  • Sentences will be judged by the MMSC staff, including MMSC Director Susanna Thomas, MMSC Barn and Media Manager Catherine Flowers, and MMSC Office Manager Lori Tobin.
  • Winners of each word of the day contest throughout the year will be entered in a grand prize drawing to win their choice of either a $500 horse credit toward an MMSC horse available for adoption or a Breyer model of Secretariat signed by Ron Turcotte. To use the $500 horse credit, the winner must become an approved adopter with the MMSC and follow all adoption policies and procedures.
  • The grand prize drawing will be held at the end of the year after Christmas and prior to New Year’s Eve.
  • Please note: The MMSC requires at least 100 distinct and individual entries in this contest in order to announce a grand prize winner at the end of the year.
  • Disclaimer: This contest does not have a connection with Blogspot or Facebook in any way and is not sponsored, supported, or organized by Blogspot or Facebook. The recipient of the information provided by you is not Blogspot or Facebook but the Maker's Mark Secretariat Center.

Older Horses: Meteor Shot and Melissa


 Meteor Shot, or “Shooter,” like Bordeaux Bandit, is ten years old. He’s a Louisiana bred horse with 24 starts, 4 wins, 4 seconds, and 4 thirds and a total earnings of $27,615. I first became aware of him in 2011, when his owner contacted the MMSC and asked if we would accept him into our program.

I studied the photographs she sent, particularly the head shot. He had a good eye: inquisitive and well intentioned. His videos showed an even trot and a balanced canter. His vet records were clean. I liked him. I told her to send him.

Melissa DeCarlo Recknor was working for me at the time. She had already adopted an MMSC horse, Fly Lite. Melissa liked Shooter too. He was compact and diminutive (15.3). He could be brilliant on the flat and over fences. He was willing to try anything that was asked of him. Smart and personable, curious and inventive, he liked to explore the world, interacting with all the people and things he encountered. He could be demanding and pushy at times, and was “race tracky” tense under saddle, but his sparkly personality won Melissa and the rest of us over. He made us laugh. He was Robin Williams with four legs.  

Those qualities were noticed by a circus tiger tamer who came to the MMSC as the guest of one of our board members at the time. Daniel was Argentinian from a five generation circus family. As a young boy, he knew that he wanted to train big cats. His father tried to dissuade him, telling him that they were difficult to work with and very, very dangerous. But Daniel, age nine, won his father over when he taught five barn cats to walk a tight rope, one leaping over the other as they inched across. He received a baby tiger on his tenth birthday. By the time he was 16, Daniel had his own act and was touring in Europe.

In his 40’s now, Daniel was thinking about retirement. He had bought some land in Florida and was going to start a business there teaching people how to trick train animals. In particular he wanted to have a herd of former racehorses. He was looking for his first acquisition. I was intrigued by the idea of the TB troupe, but guarded.

So I asked another one of our board members, Nina Bonnie, and her husband Ned, both of whom are lifelong horsemen to help me decide. We met Daniel at the backstage of the circus.

“Let me show you my cats!” he said, eyes gleaming with love and pride. The tigers had fenced paddocks with dens and “swimming pools” in which some were basking. When Daniel called each by name, it raised its head, came over and rubbed the sides of its face back and forth against the grill, purring.

Having my two sons is definitely the most exciting experience of my life, but being inches from a 500 pound tiger’s head and hearing it purr is probably the second. This is not the chintzy rumble of a house cat! A tiger’s purr is like the swell of the sea washing up on a broad sandy beach, breathy and majestic. 

Suffice it to say after we saw how Daniel worked with and kept his cats, indeed how all the circus animals were cared for, the three of us came away convinced us that we should let Daniel adopt Shooter. After all, Daniel’s retirement was nigh. Shooter would soon have a farm in Florida to go to.

Melissa was not pleased and none one of my assurances assuaged her concerns.  

“Circuses are not natural places for horses.”

“Neither are racetracks. Or show circuits. Shooter will be well cared for and soon will have a permanent home in Florida as the first TB in a special troupe that heralds the breed. It could lead to something very interesting.”

Well, Shooter did make it to Florida. But Daniel didn’t because life has a way of getting in the way of our best laid plans. When I learned in 2014 that Shooter needed a new home, I said we would take him back.

Shooter returned knowing some fun tricks, but also very needy. Not that he physically wanted for anything. He looked fine, but turn out in a field alone for over a year with scant interaction with people other than those who fed him whilst Daniel was on the road had taken a toll on him. Once back at the MMSC and reintroduced to a group of horses he became herd bound, to the point of having panic attacks when separated.

As I said in the last blog, the most difficult challenge with older horses if they are sound is dealing with the baggage in their hearts and minds. Shooter came back tense and nervous, which, along with his age, made him unadoptable by the end of our season. He needed time and a very special person. So I called Melissa and asked her if she would foster him for the winter.

 “I decided to foster him because well, you convinced me,” Melissa responded when I asked her recently. “I loved him when I first met him three years before, and I played around with the idea of adopting him when he came back last year I but just couldn't afford a horse in addition to Fly. When you approached me about fostering for two months, and he had nowhere else to go, however, I knew I had to do it.”

She took it slowly with him at first—stopping when he seemed nervous—building his trust. Under her care, Shooter bloomed. So much so I suggested that she take him to a few schooling shows—that the MMSC would pay for—because I knew they would help boost his confidence and make him, as he was already coming from behind being an older nervous horse, more adoptable if he did well.

Melissa agreed. “I thought showing would do several things for Shooter. The first was to let him get out and see what it's like to get off the farm and come back to your friends. The second, letting other people see how wonderful he really is.
"He took his first show, Snowbird, WAY better than I thought he would. He got off the trailer, hung out with his friends, walked down and into the rings and really relaxed! We came home with two seconds and a third amongst decent competition.


"After that I had high expectations, but the Paul Frazier show really rattled his brain. The Horse Park is tricky - horses either don't mind the "Dressage bowl" [the KHP's Dressage complex] or they hate it...he hated it. He hacked around the night before with his friends like a champ but it had been quiet and warm and his friends were right by his side. In the morning, however, it was very chilly. There were horses EVERYWHERE, tons of traffic and only Fly to keep him company, and Fly was honestly much more interested in eating the grass than babysitting her little brother. He lost it. I thought we would have to scratch but then I remembered - he would much rather be contained in a ring than out in the open. So I got up on Shooter right before I needed to go in and went straight into the ring without warming up. MAGIC. Although he was still nervous, he felt so much better, almost like "OK I understand what I am supposed to do now". We completed both dressage tests - they weren't pretty but we stayed in the ring, which was a major accomplishment considering what the morning started out like. 


"Then our jumping time came - he had horses warming up above him, horses jumping in the ring in front of him and horses coming and going left and right. So, I decided to do the same thing except that when we entered the ring, Shooter spun and left...running sideways back to the barn. At this point,I could have stayed on and MADE him do it but why when he was SO CLEARLY NERVOUS and not being bad? I decided that he had tried really hard and needed to chill. So I brought him back to his stall, put some liniment and wraps on his legs and let him calm down. Sure enough, he laid down and took a nap. He wasn't being bad or naughty, he was being nervous and insecure. So we went back to square one - trust.

"Back at the farm, I am continuing to work on his confidence - he is SO unsure of himself that he gets nervous when he is being ridden by himself or asked to do anything that he doesn't know. I take him on walks with no tack, just a halter and lead rope by himself. We walk around the fields, over the xc jumps, in the arena and all over the farm so he knows that even if I take him away from his friends I expect him to work and then he can return to the barn. 

"I would get on every day and just pat him - letting him know it was me in the saddle and that we would be ok. We walked and trotted for a few days and I decided to give it a go again at one more show, Meadowlake - a quieter environment. The dressage rings were all contained and he didn't have to jump a single jump. He was a star! I treated him with some gastrogard-type supplement for two days before and it made a huge difference. He is one that should probably live on an ulcer supplement. He went in and put in 6 GREAT tests - of course, we brought his girlfriend Jazzy up with him so he had a friend to keep him company but I could not have been more proud! And had it not been for my error in the test, he would've scored his best score to date. We came home with a first and two seconds!” (See the video of Shooter's best dressage test here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dpJzxuERVKk)

Shooter was supposed to come back to the MMSC the first of March. But knowing him as I did, I felt that he had to stay at Melissa’s a little longer to make him truly adoptable. He was tried by one potential adopter, but the fit was not a good one. He wasn’t ready to go. But one potential adopter who had heard his story through an email exchange with us decided to pitch in, offering to pay half of his board until he found a home. But even paying half is too expensive for the MMSC.

I pleaded with Melissa over and over to adopt Shooter. 

“If I had the money I would not even question him staying Fly's brother for the rest of his life,” she told me repeatedly. “However, Fly is my first commitment and keeping her happy and healthy is my goal. My husband and I don't have the funding to be able to keep two horses. If I won the lotto or someone told me they would pay his bills for the rest of his life, it would be a no brainer. I love this little horse! I told myself I wouldn't fall in love, it was just a foster. But we all knew that wasn't going to happen.

“I worry so. I don’t know what is going to happen to him. I know you will find him a great home, but when? And what if he comes back again? What if I help chose a home that isn't the right home? Will he think I failed him? Will he think I abandoned him? It's hard for me to think about him leaving but I know for him a forever home that could spoil him is exactly what he needs and I can't give that to him right now.”

I got to thinking. I can’t justify keeping Shooter with Melissa any longer and paying for his board and training. But that is clearly where where this adorable horse belongs for now.

 But what if I were to broadcast his story?  Surely you out there reading about him would help him stay with Melissa until he finds his forever home, a home that Melissa KNOWS will be perfect for him? If you are willing and able to help, would you go to www.gofundme.com/meteorshot right now. No gift is too small.  Remember a cistern is filled one drop a time. Please, if you can, help Shooter. This is your chance to make a big difference in this little horses life.

Thank you and cheery bye,

Susanna





Older Racehorses: Bordeaux Bandit


What do you do with an older racehorse? A horse that is not unsound, but like any middle-aged athlete has accumulated over time pesky aches and weak spots that need attention? An animal which, like career service men and women, has spent its life on the move in a demanding job with ever changing vistas and company? Those horses are much harder to place than the young ones that may have raced a few times if ever at all; the ones that are too slow or too sweet to make the break, from the starting gate literally, or in the competitive field of racing, figuratively. As I tell visitors to the MMSC, not every horse is destined to be a racehorse. Some don’t hold up physically or mentally. Some don’t have the brains or the stomach for it. But you have those special horses that get the game, that cotton to it, and that commit to trying. Bordeaux Bandit is one of those.

Bordeaux Bandit was sold as a yearling at the Keeneland Sales for $350,ooo. He is well bred, by Vindication who is by Seattle Slew, out of Mimi’s Golden Girl, a Seeking the Gold mare, and must have been very good looking as a youngster. At 10, he’s handsome still. Well balanced, a lovely shoulder and hind end, and a beautiful head with big, expressive eyes.  He ran once as a two year and nine times as three year old. He showed a bit of promise here and there. He was a good, solid campaigner, always trying.

In October of his four year old year, he was claimed for the first time, racing five times for that stable before being claimed for the second time by an owner/trainer who kept him and campaigned for four more years. Still racing at nine in $5K claimers, the original owners decided to buy him back and retire him. Except that he was sound, and very service oriented. There was no reason he couldn’t have a second career; indeed, it would be good for him. He probably would have gone mad or become depressed if forever relegated to greener pastures. Think how a career sergeant would feel if sent, at age 45, to live in the confines of an old folks home.  

So Bordeaux Bandit came to the MMSC last June, just one month after his last race. His ankles were a little big, but x-rays showed nothing of concern-edema that could be healed with cold hosing and rest. Like all career athletes some muscles were tighter than others, some bigger, some smaller. He was stiff. He needed to be chiropractically realigned. Massage and magnetics would help him. Stretching both from the ground and from the saddle too. A joint surfactant, acupuncture, and herbs would be beneficial. None of those things concerned me. They rarely do with ex-racehorses. Provided there are no major injuries, the body can be fixed with time and diligent care.

It’s the brain and spirit that I worry about. Older racehorses are laden with with mental and spiritual baggage. I never know how long it will take to get to the bottom of that stuff. I am pretty confident that we can get  there. I have only encountered a few in my time that have a permanent lodestone so cemented in their psyches or souls it can’t be dislodged. The question of what to do with these rare types is the subject for a whole other blog which I probably will never write.  

Older racehorses like Bordeaux Bandit deserve a chance, yet they present a real problem for the MMSC. Capable of having a second career, but needing the time to transition there, these horses are expensive to take on. Without my help, they may not be able to go on to a new career right away because they are too stiff, too sore, too “race tracky” to suit an amateur owner. Yet no professional is going to touch a horse like that—because it can be difficult to ride at first and even once reschooled most likely won’t have the scope to win because of its age and history. Horses like that get flipped for low dollars. They also contribute to the bad rap of the “crazy Thoroughbred”. 

How can I justify spending donated dollars on a horse that needs time to unwind physically and mentally that needs new skill sets to be serviceable yet that racks up a bill of five, six, seven thousand dollars over nine months or so in making this transition? Should I not take on these horses and recommend that they be permanently retired? What would that cost over fifteen or so years? And who would pay for that? 

Doesn’t it make sense, therefore, if the horse could have a purpose to invest in its transition to a new home and job?  I think so.  But I also look at the MMSC’s  bottom line and budget all the time. A horse like Bordeaux or Bawanna Jake or Nowhere to Hide, two horses that I wrote about in earlier blogs, can rack up bills of $6000 or more before they are ready to find a home where I know they can be of service, be safe, and be loved. Yet, how can I ask for that money back from an adopter when that is the cost of a show horse or a younger horse with potential? As we speak, I have $6,800 of expenses in Bordeaux—he is lucky because his donors love him and cover much of those costs. But what if he didn’t  have owners like that?  Until I establish and get a fully funded “slush fund/trust fund” for horse care, I can’t.   

Yet Bordeaux, as we call him at the MMSC, is priceless. When he came to the MMSC last June, he was all business and no pleasure. He didn’t like to be touched (he still doesn’t as he is very ticklish), refused treats, looked out at the world with levelheaded yet circumspect eyes. In the field, it took him months to learn how to play with other horses. He kept his distance from the herd, a grumpy old man who scorned the antics of the young.

Under saddle, he was workmanlike but stiff and tense. When asked to canter, he wanted to gallop. When trail riding, he stayed on high alert, like a commando anticipating ambush. He did all that we asked: walked over bridges, trotted over cavalletti, jumped cross rails, but he showed no joy, just duty.

He was tried by several potential adopters last fall, but his horsenality was too dry and his way of going too intense. So when our closing date in December came, we sent him off to a friend of mine, Diana Shoop, who fosters horses on her Gemstone Farm for free for us. Diana is never without a carrot or a kind word for any horse. She’s hawk-eyed about her horses and diligent with their care. She had adopted an older racehorse, Desert Wheat from us, and I had seen how he has bloomed emotionally and physically in her care. I knew Bordeaux would be in good hands.  

I was right. When I went to visit him in February of this year, I couldn’t believe what I saw! Yes, he was wooly and plump, but that didn’t surprise me. It was the look in his eye! Happy. Calm. Trusting.  Bravo Diana and Father Time!  His balanced conformation was now matched, nay surpassed by his beautiful expression!

Bordeaux has always been ready to serve, but he has come back expressing a real joy in doing so. He is still sensitive—he needs a light hand and seat and a clamped leg still means GO! He is still ticklish and doesn’t like to be groomed vigorously. But now he likes treats, and having his forehead rubbed. He has become quite the trickster in the field, grabbing the feed tub and challenging the youngsters to play tug of war with it. He leaps, he races, he spars with them too. He is bursting with life and joie de vivre

Yes, it cost money to bring this older racehorse around. Yes, he is lucky to have former owners that support him. Yes, the MMSC has been good for him.  But surely, this beautiful horse deserves this? He served his humans as he could at the track. Having started 41 times, won 3 firsts, 6 seconds, and 5 thirds for a career total of $100,700, he has a past to be proud of. Now Bordeaux Bandit awaits his glorious future, as do many other older race horses just like him.



Cheery bye,

Susanna

A Bigger Picture

This week was all about the BIGGER PICTURE. We need weeks like that because life is daily. We get up. Clean up. Put our pants on one leg at a time, and hit the “To do” list. We lose sight of the forest for the trees.  

To help us out, God has given us or we have created holidays—yearly check points— temporal and spiritual oases (yes, that is the plural of oasis) where, if we are smart, we pull up short, take stock, stock up, and regroup before heading back out to take the heat in a world full of mirages. 

This week, if you are Jewish, your check point was Passover; Christian, Holy Week; Buddhist, I hear it’s a festival called Songkran, and I am not sure about Muslims, Confusians, or Daoists, that’s out of my league. Deists and pagans, I suppose, celebrated spring. Really, all of us should be doing that because it’s been a nationwide long winter. This week, at last, spring has sprung in Kentucky. The grass done greened up considerable I once heard a Kentucky horse farmer say. What he meant was that one day, you walk out of your door and the fields which for months have been the color of overcooked peas are suddenly so emerald green your eyes smart. It’s like Dorothy emerging from her drab monochrome Kansas world into the technicolor land of Oz. Dazzling. It happens every year. It's part of the bigger picture phenomenon.

So this week, the grass done greened up considerable. Buds are appearing on trees. Daffodils are blooming and the temperatures soared into the sixties. Life is returning to earth. At the MMSC, after our second week of “normalcy” we are hitting our stride.

Tuesday began, as usual with staff meeting. We reviewed the events of the past week:

 1. The Family Fun Day was so successful we decided to hold a summer series of them. 2. The newly seeded grass began to sprout in the front paddocks. 3. Four new adoption applications came in. What kind of horses were people looking for?  

We discussed the plans for the ensuing days: 1. Horse training goals and objectives; vet/farrier/chiro appointments; scheduled adopters arrivals; possible horses for our program for me to go look at; short term plans, CRUST fundraiser on Thursday, Sunrise Trackside demo on Saturday; long term plans (Rolex three weeks ahead), fundraising, problem solving, etc. There is never a dearth of subjects. Each one of us made “to do” lists, of course.

In the barn, Lilly was busy with the spa treatments for the new horses: dentist, farrier, chiropractors, acupuncturists, Thera-plating, Revitaveting, as well as treating the day to day dings that horses come up with that needed to be cold hosed, poulticed, packed, soaked, or scrubbed. She and I had reviewed all the training plans for the week. It was Lillys job to enact them. We added a new rider to our team, Sam, who used to own Rondo, one of our horses available for adoption. Although it was heart wrenching to her to give him away, she doesn’t have time in her life for a horse and so she generously ascertained that it would be better for him to have a person and a job. To help assuage her worries and sadness, I told her she could help Rondo pick his person.

Horses got ridden on Tuesday and Wednesday. Thursday and Friday it monsooned. The barn aisle flooded as it is wont to do in heavy rains. Water seeped under the foundation of the office and ponded in the bathroom. The arena and and the round pen were almost unusable, but use them we did, because we are behind schedule with our training and our adoptions. We moved slowly (mostly walked and some trot) and got drenched. Two new horses arrived on campus: Appealing Alex (“Alex”) and Simple Touch (“Esther”). Double Minded (“Dublin”) who has been in foster care in Florida, finally made it back home.

Catherine and Lori were drowning in applications, baby books, event planning, social media, and the flood of paperwork both incoming and outgoing in preparation for fundraisers big and large, horse shows for our horses, Rolex, our Nuno Santos clinic, and Sips ’N Saddles, this year on June 19. And I tried to keep our ship afloat and ever moving ahead, problem solving and initiating, steering and rectifying as well as slogging through my own deluge of stuff—like how to raise a half a million dollars this year. It’s because of all this that one easily loses sight of the bigger picture.

But then our beloved family Jack Russell, Brooks, 15, began to dim like a dwindling candle. He slept between my husband and me on his last night and on his last day he never left our arms. We buried him in monogrammed family linens. We cried a lot, but we also savored the warm memories of many years. It was a personal bigger picture moment. As it was for so many people around the globe. Jews remembered their Exodus from Egypt and how the angel of death passed over their homes sparing the lives of  their sons. Christians relived Jesus’s triumphant entry to Jerusalem, his final supper, his death, burial and resurrection, and sought perspective through this story in the dailiness of their own lives.

I am profoundly grateful for all bigger picture reminders. They are messages to each of us to choose the positive, not the negative, to see the good, not the bad. To recognize that we tread the Earth for but an instant. That we need to walk our talk. Adopt an attitude of gratitude. To live our happy life not at some point in the future, but TODAY! Sure, the world is a mess. We are wrecking our climate. We are squandering our resources. There is destruction and atrocity everywhere. For a little local and less apocalyptic perspective we were swamped figuratively with work and problems all week. Come Thursday when the heavens opened and dumped six inches of rain on us, we were inundated literally. The Horse Park entrance was flooded, roads everywhere in Lexington were closed. Taking care of horses was sheer wet, cold misery. It would have been easy to dive into a cesspool of complaints. 

But taking stock of the bigger picture, it had really been a blessed week. I had gotten leads on some promising new horses. We had a large monetary donation that dropped down upon us like manna from heaven. Loukas, a horse with a wonderful story which I will relate in a forthcoming blog, found his person. Saturday was Sunrise Trackside at the Keeneland Race Course, an event that is always a privilege and fun to do. It involves taking a horse to meet the early morning crowds to tell them about second careers for Thoroughbreds. All the interns help. They hand out brochures and greet visitors, answering questions about the MMSC. Jazz Fest (the Duchess of Cornwall’s favorite!) was a superstar with children (right) and grownups alike. We are from Indianapolis and drove down here to escape March Madness, Susan and her husband, Mark, told us. We like horses, so we thought we would come here this morning.  We have never thought about what happens to Thoroughbreds after racing and we have loved learning about what you do! Thank you for coming! Comments like that and smiles of delight from children show our interns how much what they and the MMSC does, matter.
Susan and Mark of Indianapolis with Jazz Fest

When all is said and done and the horses are loaded up and heading back (thank you Brookledge!), to the MMSC, I always arrange a tour of the Keeneland complex to reward the MMSC interns and volunteers. This year Walt Robertson, Vice President of Sales at Keeneland, led us for an hour and a half from the administrative offices to the sales pavilion, from Millionaire row, to the press box, explaining all, answering questions. Last but not least, he took us up a steep set of stairs onto the roof to the announcer’s tower where we met Kurt Becker who has called races at Keeneland for nineteen years. There was so much we wanted to know from Kurt: How does he keep all the horses straight? Does he memorize  their names? Or the colors and shapes on their silks? How does he tell them apart when they are muddy? Did he get nervous? Had he ever “miscalled” a race?  

Kurt graciously endured the barrage and invited us to stay in the tower while he called a race. But suddenly the first strains of the national anthem lilted through the track loudspeaker. We fell silent and stood tall. Some of the interns clasped their hands. Many gazed out the window taking in the birds eye view of the track with its emerald green infield, its name spelled out in trimmed boxwoods and beyond, the famous horse farms demarcated with black and white fences, the barns with cupolas and the white-pillared mansions.

The view of Keeneland from the Announcer's Booth

I looked around the room, studying each persons face. Suddenly I espied a different panoramic vista: One where the uniqueness and singular beauty of each individual lept out at me. Where the sight of the Kentucky and  American flags fluttering from flag poles on the track below and the sound of our national anthem sung in four part harmony accompanied by fiddles saturated my senses with state and national pride. One where my mind hovered momentarily to ponder the mystery and marvel of the jets in the sky ascending and descending at the nearby Bluegrass airport bringing and taking people who knows where, to do who knows what. Each one important. Each one with a purpose. Each one part of a bigger grace-filled picture. 

And then the anthem was over and that view recededVisions like that dont last long.  Thats a good thing because their majesty rams you into park. You wouldn’t get much done  or travel too far if you always focused on the forest and not the trees. Pictures like that, are like the photos on our walls, our tables or chest of drawers-when they catch our eye, we become blissfully aware-for an instant- of the magnitude and the preciousness of life.

 Cheery bye,
Susanna













Why so many highlit words this week? Because I am taking a broad spectrum approach to the Word of the Day in celebration of the “Bigger Picture" week!

The Blog Word of the Day:

 Help us reach our goal of 112,000 total blog visitors this year! Join our Word of the Day contest and you could be entered in a grand prize drawing to win a $500 horse credit at the MMSC or a Breyer model of Secretariat signed by Secretariat’s jockey Ron Turcotte! Simply read the blog every Sunday and find the highlighted Word of the Day. Then write a sentence using the word and submit it to mmsc04@gmail.com for a chance to be entered to win! Please read the full contest details below before submitting an entry.
  • Blogs will be posted on Sundays. A chosen word will be highlighted within each blog post.
  • Sentences using the highlighted word must be emailed to mmsc04@gmail.com with the subject line “Word of the Day Contest”.
  • Entries may be submitted each week following a blog post from the posted time through Thursday at 5:00 pm.
  • Winners will be posted on the MMSC Facebook page each Friday following a blog post.
  • Entries must include the highlighted word of the day. The word of the day may be used in other parts of speech other than the one used in the blog, i.e. the highlighted word in the blog may be "malleability" but entrants may use the more common form "malleable" in their sentences.
  • Entries must also include the entrant’s full name (first and last) and email address.
  • Entrants may submit more than one sentence for consideration.
  • Sentences will be judged based on correct use of the word of the day, grammar and sentence structure, and creativity. 
  • Sentences will be judged by the MMSC staff, including MMSC Director Susanna Thomas, MMSC Barn and Media Manager Catherine Flowers, and MMSC Office Manager Lori Tobin.
  • Winners of each word of the day contest throughout the year will be entered in a grand prize drawing to win their choice of either a $500 horse credit toward an MMSC horse available for adoption or a Breyer model of Secretariat signed by Ron Turcotte. To use the $500 horse credit, the winner must become an approved adopter with the MMSC and follow all adoption policies and procedures.
  • The grand prize drawing will be held at the end of the year after Christmas and prior to New Year’s Eve.
  • Disclaimer: This contest does not have a connection with Blogspot or Facebook in any way and is not sponsored, supported, or organized by Blogspot or Facebook. The recipient of the information provided by you is not Blogspot or Facebook but the Maker's Mark Secretariat Center.

A “Normal” Week

After the polar curve balls that Mother Nature had thrown us in weeks one and two, and the full court press slam dunk third week dominated by the the Duchess and David events, we were due a week of normalcy at the MMSC.

Fortunately, that’s what we got! Now, keep in mind that a week of normalcy at the MMSC is anything but normal. That’s because horses will be horses. They are not static entities. They move around; injure themselves or their herd mates; get sick, get tired, get stiff; get confused, get exuberant, progress, regress, and everything in between DAY TO DAY. It makes working with them interesting.

Human beings are not static entities, either. They oversleep. Get hurt (by horses usually). Get headaches and colds. Get busy. Get captious. Get off track or stuck in traffic. All of which can derange the best laid day’s schedule if they work at the MMSC.

And then there are the human beings who wander in our door because we are located on the premises of a state park who want to know what we do and how we do it, see what horses we have for adoption, and tell us about the horses they have or have owned. And, of course, there are the human beings whom we have scheduled to come talk to us about all of these things. 

Add to that day to day chores in the barn and office, and what you’ll get is a very busy, NORMAL, albeit unpredictably normal, week at the MMSC.  

Let me give you an overview:

It started out with a tour of our facility for Auburn University students. About 20 equine students traveled to Lexington for a tour of the Horse Capital of the World, and we happily showed them our corner of the Kentucky Horse Park, walking them through our barn, introducing them to a few of the horses, and explaining our Horse-Centered Reschooling Program. Many of the students were interested in our internship program, so we hope to see them again in the future!

As always, we had our beginning of the week staff meeting when Lori, MMSC Office Manager, Catherine, our Program Coordinator, Lilly, our interim Barn Manager, any interns or riders who wish, and I convene, share what we have been working on, what roadblocks we may have met, and discuss upcoming events, plans, and needs. We usually meet over lunch. Chocolate is always involved. Laughter, too. Staff meetings are a weekly MMSC highlight.

Our summer internship program has become very popular, even with people who are not of age, and this week, we had an interview with a young lady who came as a prospective intern with her mother and sister from Cleveland to look at the MMSC and to discuss the requirements and demands of our program. They stayed for several hours, toured, and asked a lot of questions. I told them as I tell everyone: You will work very, very hard. No bad attitudes tolerated. Endless questions are not only permissible, they are expected. You will learn a ton and have the time of your life. The young lady seemed smitten. 

The farrier came this week (Harlan twisted a shoe). The vet too. Poor Angel, who was supposed to meet the Duchess last week but couldn’t because she was lame, was diagnosed with an ugly, deep, and infected abscess that will take a few months to heal. We had to send her back to her foster farm. Too bad. Angel has the build and temperament of Mrs. Doubtfire and surely would have found in no time a family to join and care for. Oh well, it  always works out as it is supposed to. Perhaps this happened because her people are not due to come for her until summer?

Beachview Two was slightly lame, too. We had him re-x-rayed. Even though he had surgery last year to have chips removed, the cartilage atrophy is too significant. He is not going to hold up for the kinds of jobs our adopters want. I am heart broken. I had so much hope for this bright little otter-minded horse. (Is there anyone out there who would like a pasture BFF and an occasional trail horse to lightly ride? )

Street Art was the first adoptee of 2015 and left with his new family, Anne and Harry Weber from Missouri. Anne is a professional jumper trainer and has entered Artie in the RRP Thoroughbred Makeover to be held at the Kentucky Horse Park in October. Harry is a sculptor. Ever keen to extract a “pound of flesh” wherever I can find it,  I asked Harry if he would consider sculpting a statue of Bucephalus, Alexander the Great’s black stallion, to place in our Bucephalus Training Library (and maybe to make replicas to sell for the benefit of the MMSC??). He said he would get right to the drawing board! 


I looked at a bunch of horses this week, always in search of ones that might work for our program. Catherine picked up our 2015 order of polos and T-shirts (check out our online store). Melissa took Shooter to a show at the Kentucky Horse Park this weekend. The environment was much more overwhelming to him than the last one. It was outdoors, with multiple surrounding rings, lots of horses, and lots of commotion.  Shooter got frazzled but made it through his two dressage tests as dutifully as could be expected of a frazzled horse.  We were all very proud of our little meteor. Thank you, Melissa!

We worked on our mailing list to send out our “SIPS 'N SADDLES SAVE THE DATE” cards. Mark your calendars now for your summer kickoff bash and barbecue on June 19! (By the way, we are looking for sponsors for this party so that all the proceeds can go directly to the horses’ needs. Please contact us at mmsecretariatcenter@gmail.org if you would like to help). 


For the first time since the horses came back on campus, we put in a steady week of training. Horses got ridden by our riders Molly and Carolyn. Others were bombproofed or lunged.  Some were put in the Hitchcock pen. We treated bumps, scrapes, and rain rot. We did alternative therapies. Interns applied a lot of daily elbow grease currying out dead hair from shaggy coats. We switched horses to new paddocks to rest the ones downtrodden in the first three weeks. 

And we ended the week with a Family Activity Day for the Run the Bluegrass Marathon participants’ families. Planned by all of us, and put into play by our amazing communications interns Sharon and Maggie, the Family Activity Day was an opportunity to educate the public about off-track Thoroughbreds and to advocate for them in a way that was educational and fun. To see the joy in the children's faces when horses greeted them with a warm puff of their nostrils and the parents’ eyes light up with understanding when I explained to them the need for programs such as ours were handsome rewards for all of us.  And we made money, too! Doing something we all believe in and love and making money! Now, that’s not just a normal week, that’s an IDEAL WEEK!
Visitors learned about Thoroughbreds' tattoos.

Jay Z enjoyed meeting all the kids.
Everyone who wanted got to paint a racing plate.
Parents and children joined in our obstacle course races.
Bordeaux our off track warrior (he’s 10 and raced until last year) 
showed off his softer“feminine side to the children.

Cheery bye,
Susanna



Why is captious highlighted?

Because it is  the Blog Word of the Day:

 Help us reach our goal of 112,000 total blog visitors this year! Join our Word of the Day contest and you could be entered in a grand prize drawing to win a $500 horse credit at the MMSC or a Breyer model of Secretariat signed by Secretariat’s jockey Ron Turcotte! Simply read the blog every Sunday and find the highlighted Word of the Day. Then write a sentence using the word and submit it to mmsc04@gmail.com for a chance to be entered to win! Please read the full contest details below before submitting an entry.
  • Blogs will be posted on Sundays. A chosen word will be highlighted within each blog post.
  • Sentences using the highlighted word must be emailed to mmsc04@gmail.com with the subject line “Word of the Day Contest”.
  • Entries may be submitted each week following a blog post from the posted time through Thursday at 5:00 pm.
  • Winners will be posted on the MMSC Facebook page each Friday following a blog post.
  • Entries must include the highlighted word of the day. The word of the day may be used in other parts of speech other than the one used in the blog, i.e. the highlighted word in the blog may be "malleability" but entrants may use the more common form "malleable" in their sentences.
  • Entries must also include the entrant’s full name (first and last) and email address.
  • Entrants may submit more than one sentence for consideration.
  • Sentences will be judged based on correct use of the word of the day, grammar and sentence structure, and creativity. 
  • Sentences will be judged by the MMSC staff, including MMSC Director Susanna Thomas, MMSC Barn and Media Manager Catherine Flowers, and MMSC Office Manager Lori Tobin.
  • Winners of each word of the day contest throughout the year will be entered in a grand prize drawing to win their choice of either a $500 horse credit toward an MMSC horse available for adoption or a Breyer model of Secretariat signed by Ron Turcotte. To use the $500 horse credit, the winner must become an approved adopter with the MMSC and follow all adoption policies and procedures.
  • The grand prize drawing will be held at the end of the year after Christmas and prior to New Year’s Eve.
  • Disclaimer: This contest does not have a connection with Blogspot or Facebook in any way and is not sponsored, supported, or organized by Blogspot or Facebook. The recipient of the information provided by you is not Blogspot or Facebook but the Maker's Mark Secretariat Center.







The Duchess and David

It was a full court press week. I am not talking basketball, although the NCAA Tournament did begin this week and all eyes are glued on the undefeated Kentucky Wildcats.
I am talking about the daily demands at the MMSC that pushed us to the wall this week. 

A full court press, for those who don’t follow basketball, is a highly coordinated aggressive in-your-face-snort fire-defensive team tactic exercised the entire length of the court to block the ball or to steal it from the opponent.

We knew on Monday that the week would require an all out team effort. Just thirteen days prior, Cindy Rullman, the executive director of the Brooke USA, an international non-profit organization concerned with the welfare of equids in third world countries, had asked me if we would bring some of our horses to Churchill Downs on March 20th to greet their international president. It just so happens that the international president of the Brooke is married to Prince Charles. Yes, I am talking, Camilla, The Duchess of Cornwall! 

Cindy has had an office at the MMSC for two years now. It’s a symbiotic fit. The Brooke  raises awareness and funds to support working horses and donkeys in many impoverished countries where these animals are the backbone of local economies. The MMSC’s mission is to give the “work horses” in the US, Thoroughbreds that supply the livelihood for so many people—from grooms to exercise riders, hot walkers to jockeys, track kitchen workers to maintenance crews and more, a new life after racing. Cindy and I both are passionate about making a difference for these animals. We support and admire one another’s work.  

Still, to be asked to participate in Cindy’s big moment, the arrival of the Duchess to acknowledge and celebrate the opening of the Brooke USA, was an unexpected and weighty honor. There were protocols to learn and State Department checks to be run. There were schedules down to the minute to be studied, and speeches to be reviewed. We made lists of things to bring—buckets, muck tubsas well as things to acquire—hoof polish, new towelsand things to borrowleather shanks, stable blankets. We had to line up volunteers and van drivers. We had to get health certs and have a brand new series of vaccinations administered by a vet. I selected five horses that could go on to a second career in a different equestrian sport: dressage, show hunter, field hunter, eventer, and Western pleasure. But I was worried. The horses had to be well behaved, both for safety reasons as well as to defray the commonly held belief that “Thoroughbreds are crazy.” Besides, I wanted them to showcase to the public that my Horse Centered Reschooling Program ℠ could bring horses around in record time. Although we had been told to just hand walk the horses around the saddling paddock, they each had a lot riding on them, especially since the MMSC’s opening had been so delayed and the horses’ training retarded once they got on campus due to continuing heavy snows and records freezes.  
Susanna and Catherine with Dare Me aka "Darren"
During the first half of the week, we staged intensive bombproofing sessions, flapping our Hefty bag “ponchos”, opening, closing, and twirling umbrellas, letting loose plastic bags roll and drift across our arena. Horses were bathed, manes pulled, goatees, fuzzy ears and pasterns were trimmed. Specific tack and attire for each discipline from formal hunt wear to Western tack loaded with bling had to be tracked down and brought to the Center.
Bombproofing Street Art aka "Artie"
Meanwhile, the office teemed with Cindy’s people who addressed every last minute preparation and detail for an event consisting of a press conference, a horse demonstration, a tea party followed by a cocktail hour for incoming Brooke supporters, major donors, government officials, and Palace staff. Boxes, brochures, and papers were stacked everywhere. The coffee machine ran nonstop.

And there was no lag in in regular MMSC demands: Adoption applications, phone calls, emails, visitors both impromptu and scheduled, meetings, paperwork, groundwork, and riding. To boot, it was spring break. All of our interns had gone home, leaving us very short handed. Talk about full court press! Lilly, Lori, Catherine and I were going full out. 

Then things started to go wrong: Our “Western” horse came up lame. Our “event” horse broke out with hideous rain rot on his neck and chest. Our team was beset with everything from car troubles to the wrong orders of necessary supplies coming in at the last minute. One handler had a best friend whose routine surgery backfired and left her in a critical condition. She was sorry to leave us, but rightly rushed to the hospital in Chicago. Then I got the news that David Richmond, a treasured friend of thirty years, dropped dead whilst getting into the shower in his home in Versailles, KY. 

In life, we are born into a given family. As we go forth in the world, however, we meet our “chosen” family, those people who are part of us, not because of DNA, but because of common interests, passions, shared good times and bad. David was a cherished member of my chosen family. A playwright, poet, actor, a wordsmith extraordinaire, witty and wry, brilliant and quick, a complex marvel of a man, always living life on his own terms—out of the box. In all things he was elegant. His voice and elocution, the result of classical theater training, resonated with depth and timbre. His sartorial taste was impeccable and although his wardrobe came mostly from thrift stores, he always looked like old money. His posture was perfect. He appreciated beauty in all its forms from a cut rose to a wrinkled face. He slashed open champagne bottles with a sword. He was the master of fireworks on holidays. He told great stories, yet he listened well. He was kind, and thoughtful, and gracious like no other. I loved how he finished his phone calls: “Cheery bye.”

And now he is gone. 

Death is the great clarifier. It slices through the minutia of daily existence, the petty peeves, lurking fears and wearing worries. Although the MMSC was boiling over with activity, I was instantly removed from it all psychologically and emotionally. It reminded me of rush hour in my native New York City’s massive Grand Central Station.
Tired or flustered or needing to stop to think for a moment, I remember times when for whatever reason I just stood still while torrents of people surged past me in every direction. I could feel blasts of air from their busy bodies buffeting me on either side as they roared by. Looking upwards at the ceiling celestially marked with glittering stars and Zodiac signs always transported me to another realm, one of peace and perspective. Before moving forward, I remember looking look down at individual faces wondering what each person was rushing to and from and musing whether in their harried motions they were missing out on the big, beautiful picture of life.

It was at that moment this week that Team MMSC stepped in and rallied around me. Staff members, volunteers, past and current interns, friends as well as friend of friends showed up. One board member, Mimi Porter, came to Churchill to groom and to be supportive. Each person in his or her own way let me have space to stand still when I needed it, yet kept me focused and moving forward.

On Thursday, we loaded four horses on a Sallee van: Jazz Fest, Street Art, Beachview Two, and Dare Me, and took them down to the receiving barn at Churchill Downs. We held a two hour dress rehearsal in the saddling area and brought them back to the barns for the night. Catherine and I spent the night in Louisville and were at the barn by 8:30 the next day to feed and clean stalls. Lilly came soon after, followed by more members of Team MMSC. At two thirty, we headed to the saddling paddock, all of us in full regalia, horses included, for a two hour wait until the Duchess arrived.

And then, suddenly she was there, along with Kentucky’s first lady, Jane Beshear, and the wife of the ambassador of England. The Duchess greeted the British chief executive officer  of the Brooke, Petra Ingram, and then Cindy. She bent down and met the two donkeys, Rowdy and Renegade, that were present to represent the Brooke’s work around the world, and then it was our turn.
Street Art meets the Duchess, photo by Michael Clevenger, The Courier-Journal

Beachview Two meets the Duchess, photo by Michael Clevenger, The Courier-Journal

Dare Me and MMSC Rider Gina Moore meet the Duchess, photo by Michael Clevenger, The Courier-Journal


I was struck by how much taller she was than I had expected, and how warm and natural was her demeanor. Her handshake was genuine and strong, as was her interest in our horses. I had memorized and rehearsed a speech for each horse, but quickly abandoned the script. She didn’t seem particularly interested in pedigree or race record; she resonated, instead, to comments about their “horsenalities”. My kind of girl! So I told her that Artie was a lovely mover and ought to wear a pink tutu, and that Jazz Fest was a “fish and chips” man, who loved the great outdoors. Beachview Two was smart enough to play poker. And Dare Me was all about service. With the exception of Artie, I added, they were all available for adoption.

Jazz Fest meets the Duchess, photo by Churchill Downs
“Oh, dear,” she said, “I believe I would adopt them all!”

Again, my kind of girl!

And then she was gone.

By seven o’clock that night the horses were on the van and headed back to the MMSC. I drove straight to David’s house where friends and family were gathered to honor him. Jofre, David’s son-in-law, sliced open champagne bottles with a sword, just as David had taught him. Glasses were raised while fireworks exploded. As a finale we lit a sky lantern which inflated in our hands and then rose into to the inky sky. We shouted good wishes to David in all his heavenly stagings and watched its bright light rise higher and higher until it disappeared in the fathomless sky. Then we gathered in the parlor of the old house and told David stories, laughing heartily, sharing tales of the joy and magic he had brought to each of us in his very own unique way.

It was midnight when I got back to my house, but as I slid between the sheets, I was smiling. What an amazing week! Full court press intensity, yes. Remarkable Team MMSC rallying, yes. The MMSC horses beneath the twin spires parading before British royalty forever emblazoned on my brain, yes. The peace that passes all understanding that filled my heart as the glowing lantern rose heavenward in tribute to a man who showed many what a life well-lived amidst the drone of daily existence is. Oh, yes!

I felt and am blessed.

And now, to darling David and to all of you I wish you a 

Cheery bye,
Susanna 


Why are timbre and sartorial highlighted?

Because they are the Blog Word of the Day: There are two words this week, in honor of supreme wordsmith David Graham Richmond.

 Help us reach our goal of 112,000 total blog visitors this year! Join our Word of the Day contest and you could be entered in a grand prize drawing to win a $500 horse credit at the MMSC or a Breyer model of Secretariat signed by Secretariat’s jockey Ron Turcotte! Simply read the blog every Sunday and find the highlighted Word of the Day. Then write a sentence using the word and submit it to mmsc04@gmail.com for a chance to be entered to win! Please read the full contest details below before submitting an entry.
  • Blogs will be posted on Sundays. A chosen word will be highlighted within each blog post.
  • Sentences using the highlighted word must be emailed to mmsc04@gmail.com with the subject line “Word of the Day Contest”.
  • Entries may be submitted each week following a blog post from the posted time through Thursday at 5:00 pm.
  • Winners will be posted on the MMSC Facebook page each Friday following a blog post.
  • Entries must include the highlighted word of the day. The word of the day may be used in other parts of speech other than the one used in the blog, i.e. the highlighted word in the blog may be "malleability" but entrants may use the more common form "malleable" in their sentences.
  • Entries must also include the entrant’s full name (first and last) and email address.
  • Entrants may submit more than one sentence for consideration.
  • Sentences will be judged based on correct use of the word of the day, grammar and sentence structure, and creativity. 
  • Sentences will be judged by the MMSC staff, including MMSC Director Susanna Thomas, MMSC Barn and Media Manager Catherine Flowers, and MMSC Office Manager Lori Tobin.
  • Winners of each word of the day contest throughout the year will be entered in a grand prize drawing to win their choice of either a $500 horse credit toward an MMSC horse available for adoption or a Breyer model of Secretariat signed by Ron Turcotte. To use the $500 horse credit, the winner must become an approved adopter with the MMSC and follow all adoption policies and procedures.
  • The grand prize drawing will be held at the end of the year after Christmas and prior to New Year’s Eve.
  • Disclaimer: This contest does not have a connection with Blogspot or Facebook in any way and is not sponsored, supported, or organized by Blogspot or Facebook. The recipient of the information provided by you is not Blogspot or Facebook but the Maker's Mark Secretariat Center.

Week Two

The snow was gone by Tuesday. And then the rain came. Of course, the paddocks were waterlogged and, as I feared, they got ravaged by cavorting hooves. After eight winters at the MMSC, I should know that divots and demolition the first week back are like the law of gravity: immutable. Yet hope springs eternal. I always think we will transition gently into spring with the grass sprouting and greening up gradually, the precious turf setting down hearty roots for a season of lush pasture. But no! These days, temperatures rocket up then plunge by 40 degrees or more within a day, sending Nature into a tizzy—to bloom or not to bloom? Heap the fields heavily with snow that turns to slush. Inundate them with driving rains. Have the sun shine for an afternoon coaxing shoots to rise. Then turn out your band of Thoroughbreds. The result? Ravaged earth festooned with mud. Oh well, at least it’s a sign that the horses are back and the season has begun!

Loukas
Because we were already behind schedule, we had to cram as much as we could into this week: Spa treatments, vet work, bombproofing, horsenality assessments, riding, and potential adopters coming in from such far flung places as Wisconsin, Tennessee, Missouri, and Eastern Kentucky. We also had three new horses arrive: Loukas, a six-year-old bay Irish-bred gelding with ten starts that shipped in from California, and two chestnut mares (yes, I did say chestnut mares!), Send Me An Angel 09, and Zippy Shannon 12, both unraced from a farm nearby.
Send Me An Angel 09 (left) and Zippy Shannon 12


We always start our spa treatment with a thorough examination of the teeth and mouth. As herbivores, horses have teeth that grow continuously throughout their lifetime. This means that dental planes are ever changing depending on chewing patterns, feeds, forage, joint alignment, heredity, and bit use. If you have ever watched a horse move, particularly when it travels at speed, you will see that its jaw, too, is in motion. That’s a good thing. Why? Because more nerves run through the narrow cavity of the temporomandibular joint than anywhere else in the body. If the jaw is stuck by uneven teeth wear, then the joint will not articulate fully and it is going to show up somewhere, somehow, and sometime as a sensitivity, a weakness, a lameness, or an injury.  

Now there are some people who think you can just run a rasp in a horse’s mouth and get the job done. That’s probably true, to some extent, but I know it won’t be done to my satisfaction. (I suppose it’s sort of like a sponge bath compared to a deep soak.  Which one gets the job done best? Maybe that depends on how dirty you are.) The horse’s jaw is long, dark, narrow, and potentially dangerous (that’s where sedation comes in handy!). Therefore it is easy to miss important information that might hinder the horse's movement and consequently its training. Wolf teeth and caps are pretty easy to see, but go back further and things get more beclouded: hooks and points, wave mouth, broken teeth, ulcerations. Because I haven’t worked with these horses before, because I don't know how they have been taken care of in the past, and because I have such a short amount of time (ideally!) with each one of them, I want to get out of the gate on the right foot (or tooth), so to speak. I call in our equine dentist and ask him to shine a bright light down every MMSC candidate’s mouth and to right every possible dental wrong that he encounters.

Equine dentist Victor Torres working on Rondo, being held by MMSC intern Nicole

After the teeth are done, I call in a farrier and make sure the feet are balanced. These two things accomplished, and ONLY WHEN THEY ARE, I call in the chiropractors. Adjusting a horse that has an unbalanced mouth or feet is, to use the bath analogy again, like filling up a tub that has a leak. You’ll never get the water to stay. Similarly if the teeth are occluded or the feet are uneven, the chiropractic adjustment won’t hold. It’s bad enough that contracted muscles or a lack of muscling tend to pull the newly adjusted horse back into misalignment. If you do a chiropractic adjustment without making sure teeth and feet are balanced, you are just throwing money down into the great financial black hole of horses. So this week after Victor Torres, our dentist, and our farriers, Bryan and Amanda Osborne came, our veterinary chiropractors, Dr. Lark Caroll and Dr. R.E. Wharton arrived at the MMSC. Each of these women has different ways of adjusting a horse. Each has knowledge, experience, and perspectives that enlighten me. I divvy up the band of horses between them depending on the individual animal’s need.

MMSC Rider Molly bombproofing Beachview Two
Given the fact that we have no covered arena and that the terrain was, as I mentioned, saturated, we bombproofed on Monday and Tuesday as we could in the barn. We opened and closed umbrellas. We brandished plastic bags about heads and flanks. We sacked out and tacked up in stalls. We also set out our Theraplate, and brought out our Revitavet system. Our riders, Molly and Carolyn, braved the rains and walked and trotted what horses they could.

Dare Me aka "Darren"
On Wednesday, the first adopter of the year came. Others came on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. Did any of our horses get adopted? That will depend on prepurchase examinations and the generosity of the adopters with their proposed donations. I hope so. But, as I always say, Let go and let God. I believe that if I represent the horses as truthfully as I can, if I watch the prospective adopters closely both around the horse and when riding it, and that if I listen to my gut and speak out about whether a fit between horse and rider seems good to me, all will work out well.

One thing that worked out really well this week was brilliant little Meteor Shot went to his first show with beloved Melissa DeCarlo Recknor. Melissa worked for me for three years (2009-2012), adopted a horse from the MMSC, Fly Lite, and has been a friend of the MMSC ever since. She has fostered Shooter over the winter and under her care he has thrived! She asked me if she could show him at the Horse Park in a Snowbird Dressage show before bringing him back to the MMSC. I told her by all means, and that we would pay her entry fees as it was such good experience for Shooter. She and Shooter were snowed out for the February show, but they made it this Saturday. And how did my shining little meteorite-former racehorse-turned-circus-horse perform? LIKE A ROCK STAR! Cool, calm, and YES! collected, this little champ was third in his very first dressage show ever with a 62%,  second in his second test with a score of 63.75% and SECOND in his last test with a 66.50%!





BRAVO M. AND SHOOTER!!!! 

What a stellar way to end our second week!

Cheery bye,
Susanna

PS. Catherine worked Souza in the round pen to see what his horsenality was like. Hes everything that I thought he would be: A precocious brilliant rascal!!! More to come...

Souza
Why is stellar highlighted?  

Because it is the Blog Word of the Day: 

 Help us reach our goal of 112,000 total blog visitors this year! Join our Word of the Day contest and you could be entered in a grand prize drawing to win a $500 horse credit at the MMSC or a Breyer model of Secretariat signed by Secretariat’s jockey Ron Turcotte! Simply read the blog every Sunday and find the highlighted Word of the Day. Then write a sentence using the word and submit it to mmsc04@gmail.com for a chance to be entered to win! Please read the full contest details below before submitting an entry.
  • Blogs will be posted on Sundays. A chosen word will be highlighted within each blog post.
  • Sentences using the highlighted word must be emailed to mmsc04@gmail.com with the subject line “Word of the Day Contest”.
  • Entries may be submitted each week following a blog post from the posted time through Thursday at 5:00 pm.
  • Winners will be posted on the MMSC Facebook page each Friday following a blog post.
  • Entries must include the highlighted word of the day. The word of the day may be used in other parts of speech other than the one used in the blog, i.e. the highlighted word in the blog may be "malleability" but entrants may use the more common form "malleable" in their sentences.
  • Entries must also include the entrant’s full name (first and last) and email address.
  • Entrants may submit more than one sentence for consideration.
  • Sentences will be judged based on correct use of the word of the day, grammar and sentence structure, and creativity. 
  • Sentences will be judged by the MMSC staff, including MMSC Director Susanna Thomas, MMSC Barn and Media Manager Catherine Flowers, and MMSC Office Manager Lori Tobin.
  • Winners of each word of the day contest throughout the year will be entered in a grand prize drawing to win their choice of either a $500 horse credit toward an MMSC horse available for adoption or a Breyer model of Secretariat signed by Ron Turcotte. To use the $500 horse credit, the winner must become an approved adopter with the MMSC and follow all adoption policies and procedures.
  • The grand prize drawing will be held at the end of the year after Christmas and prior to New Year’s Eve.
  • Disclaimer: This contest does not have a connection with Blogspot or Facebook in any way and is not sponsored, supported, or organized by Blogspot or Facebook. The recipient of the information provided by you is not Blogspot or Facebook but the Maker's Mark Secretariat Center.

The First Week

Monday began with staff meeting. None of us were focused: Lori, our office manager, Catherine our former barn manager, now our program coordinator, and Lilly, our interim barn manager until May when Erin graduates from college and comes to work. We were mentally if not physically squirming in our chairs, our heads bopping up from our notes and laptops whenever we heard a vehicle pull in that might be a horse van.

There were false alarms: The trash pick up, colleagues of The Brooke USA which has an office in our building, stray visitors to the Horse Park who slowly drove around the statue of Secretariat and then left.

Finally, Catherine shot up from her seat when a horse trailer whizzed past the window.  

“The horses are here!” 

Well, one horse, actually. Colonel Harlan, a four-year-old gelding by Visionaire out of Jacaranda Jane, had started six times and was in the money twice earning a total of $24,938. He had spent the last two months in foster care at the Blackburn Correctional facility where the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation runs a life changing program for inmates called  Second Chances.

Colonel Harlan aka "Harlan"
Harlan came to us last fall with a reputation as a rogue. He did, in fact, have impressive outbursts of unacceptable behavior. Lightening quick and agile in the hind end, Harlan could buck—bronco style—like a pro. He lacked social graces and interacted with people and other horses in a heavy handed (or hoofed!), inept way. Catherine said he reminded her of “Sheldon” in the TV show, The Big Bang Theory. I’ve never seen that show, so I can’t say. All I knew was that Harlan was a very smart, scared, and needy horse. He was also young. Just three, and immature physically as well as mentally. By the time December rolled around, he had just settled into the swing of his new life, was mannerly on the ground, moving with confidence under saddle and learning to jump which he was good at and loved. The bucking was the thing of the past.

Time off was exactly what he needed. He stepped off the trailer, taller, more filled out, then stopped, inhaled and listened. Confident and quiet, he knew where he was and he was fine with that.

The next to arrive was Street Art or “Artie” as we had already nicknamed him, a 16.3hh four-year-old gelding by Noble Causeway out of Wakita. I was beyond excited to see him. A big chestnut with good bone and a teddy bear personality, he was built uphill and naturally balanced. He moved so rhythmically and with such suspension that it didn’t surprise me that in the two races he ran he finished 40 lengths behind the winner. Artie was built for comfort not for speed. He also has a very narrow mandibular. I couldn’t even fit my fist between his jaws. Maybe he couldn’t take the massive gulps of air necessary to run at top speeds?  Artie, I saw,  could dance and would be dazzling in the dressage ring. If he could jump, he’d make a lovely hunter prospect too. And, he had Noble Causeway’s slightly roman nose. I am a sucker for horses with roman noses. They always seem to be talented and winsome, sort of like the actor Owen Wilson.


Bordeaux Bandit, Jazz Fest, and Souza came next, delivered by Brook Ledge. Bordeaux, age 10, was a racetrack veteran that came to us in May of 2014, just two weeks after he hung up his silks. He arrived physically stiff and racetrack brainwashed. By December, he was more balanced and flexible, and a lot quieter, but still his mind and body needed a bit more time. The Bordeaux that stepped off the trailer was a different horse: Rolly-polly, fuzzy and best of all, bright eyed. He had come to us last year with a brusque “where d’ya wanna go?” New York cab driver look in his eye. Now his gaze was poised, relaxed and happy, which coupled with his elegant build takes your breath away. What a classic and classy Thoroughbred!
Bordeaux Bandit aka "Bordeaux"

Jazz Fest aka "Jay Z"

Jazz Fest is my Hummer. Stocky. Built. Think varsity wrestler. A meat and potatoes kind of guy. Uncomplicated. Hearty. Satisfying. To me he’s a field or a show hunter.  He’s tall, dark, and handsome too. Those are added benefits.

Souza
Souza screamed E V E N T E R to me when I saw him at the track last year. He’s got the build, the type, and the brain for it. He is going to be a handful though. Why? Because he has a mischievous twinkle in his eye. This horse wants action. A lot of it. And it has to be interesting. I’ll bet he is a bit of daredevil. It will take a savvy rider to stay ahead of Souza.

Michael Evans from Sheltowee Farm brought two of the four horses I was expecting. Dare Me, Shakleford’s half brother, had speed and quality but his owner’s stopped on him because he had a breathing problem. “Darren” is another eventer type. Great hind end. Uphill. Level headed. Beachview Two accompanied Darren. Beachview had been at the MMSC briefly last year, but I wasn’t quite happy with the look of his ankles and subsequent x-rays revealed chips that needed to come out. His amazing owners paid for the surgery and laid him up the rest of the year until he proved to be sound. Now that’s responsible ownership! The Beachview that came back to us had transitioned from boy to man. No longer spindly and narrow but tall and well sprung. But he still has that inquisitive look that had endeared me to him in the first place. He reminds me of an otter, keen and quick. I used to joke when he came last year that we could teach him do tricks, maybe even play poker. This horse is smart and very, very personable.
Dare Me aka "Darren"


Beachview Two aka "Beachview"
On Tuesday “Rondo”, donated to us by Lilly our barn manager, arrived. Rondo has been reschooled and was used for a bit as a lesson horse which really wasn’t to his liking. Multiple riders make him edgy. He is the monogamous type and will excel when he finds his person. Three things of note about Rondo. 1. He is a LOVELY mover. 2. He has two small “horns” protruding on either side of his star on his forehead.  3. He has the worst registered name known to man: PAIN GIVER. 
Pain Giver aka "Rondo"


Wednesday brought cold rains and sleet as well a snow forecast of 10 to 15 inches falling in the wee hours of the night. We postponed the arrival of the remaining horses. We canceled all the “spa” treatments scheduled for the rest of the week. Potential adopters were called and asked to rebook their flights or postpone their trips. The horses stood by the gate most of the day, sopping wet, looking miserable, relieved when we brought them in early, only to become annoyed when they had to spend the next 36 hours up in their stalls.

Roads were treacherous with snow on top of ice on Thursday morning, so the gracious Kentucky Horse Park police and KHP equine staff went up to the barn to water and hay the horses. Intrepid Lilly made it out to the MMSC in the afternoon and pronounced all the horses to be well, but very bored. (Souza had amused himself by flipping water buckets, tormenting his jolly ball, and wriggling out his blanket!)

Friday the snow was still with us, but the roads were slowly passable. Horses were finally turned out and as many stalls as possible were cleaned until the manure spreader could hold no more.

Saturday “Archangel Dave”, our stalwart volunteer of many years came and plowed a route to the spreader, hitched it to the tractor and dumped the manure. Office and barn interns came. The sun shone. The snow began to melt.

By Tuesday when we return, the temperatures will be in the fifties. The snow will be gone, and the paddocks, although water-logged, will host the full complement of horses in the spring class. We will pick up where we left off: beauty and spa treatments, “horsenality” assessments, initial bombproofing, and showing horses to potential adopters. Normal first week kind of stuff.

So what will the second week bring? A broken water pipe in the fields somewhere when the great thaw sets in? (Hope not!) What will we learn about these horses when we start them in the Horse Centered Reschooling Program ℠? (No telling) Will any of them get adopted next week? If so, which one?  (Let me know by posting your comments on our Facebook page www.facebook.com/makersmarksecretariatcenter under the blog post entry.)

Cheery bye,
Susanna
When I turned Rondo out, he showered me with a front, face, and mouthful
 of mud. Clearly I am not destined to be his forever person!

Why is complement highlighted?  

Because it is the Blog Word of the Day: 

 Help us reach our goal of 112,000 total blog visitors this year! Join our Word of the Day contest and you could be entered in a grand prize drawing to win a $500 horse credit at the MMSC or a Breyer model of Secretariat signed by Secretariat’s jockey Ron Turcotte! Simply read the blog every Sunday and find the highlighted Word of the Day. Then write a sentence using the word and submit it to mmsc04@gmail.com for a chance to be entered to win! Please read the full contest details below before submitting an entry.
  • Blogs will be posted on Sundays. A chosen word will be highlighted within each blog post.
  • Sentences using the highlighted word must be emailed to mmsc04@gmail.com with the subject line “Word of the Day Contest”.
  • Entries may be submitted each week following a blog post from the posted time through Thursday at 5:00 pm.
  • Winners will be posted on the MMSC Facebook page each Friday following a blog post.
  • Entries must include the highlighted word of the day. The word of the day may be used in other parts of speech other than the one used in the blog, i.e. the highlighted word in the blog may be "malleability" but entrants may use the more common form "malleable" in their sentences.
  • Entries must also include the entrant’s full name (first and last) and email address.
  • Entrants may submit more than one sentence for consideration.
  • Sentences will be judged based on correct use of the word of the day, grammar and sentence structure, and creativity. 
  • Sentences will be judged by the MMSC staff, including MMSC Director Susanna Thomas, MMSC Barn and Media Manager Catherine Flowers, and MMSC Office Manager Lori Tobin.
  • Winners of each word of the day contest throughout the year will be entered in a grand prize drawing to win their choice of either a $500 horse credit toward an MMSC horse available for adoption or a Breyer model of Secretariat signed by Ron Turcotte. To use the $500 horse credit, the winner must become an approved adopter with the MMSC and follow all adoption policies and procedures.
  • The grand prize drawing will be held at the end of the year after Christmas and prior to New Year’s Eve.
  • Disclaimer: This contest does not have a connection with Blogspot or Facebook in any way and is not sponsored, supported, or organized by Blogspot or Facebook. The recipient of the information provided by you is not Blogspot or Facebook but the Maker's Mark Secretariat Center.

MMSC Abuzz

The MMSC has been abuzz all week. The horses are coming! You would think that all of us were five years old and awaiting the arrival of Santa Claus. We are giddy with anticipation. We are scurrying around, trying to get everything clean and orderly. We are counting the days. Despite the week of delay, this still isn’t easy. The weather didnt cooperate much this week. We still have over a foot of snow to contend with and the cold is aggressive. It’s a challenge to push a wheelbarrow full of shavings over an icy snow crusted hillock as it is to wash down shelves with gloves on. How do you line dry laundry when it is below freezing? Or just spend hours at a time in a barn with an arctic wind blowing through the aisle ways?

Even though we tidy up when we close in December, somehow, it never seems clean enough when we get ready to open in February. Dust. Cobwebs. Mustiness. How does this happen so quickly? It’s truly sobering how quickly nature reclaims. Call it entropy. Call it “dust to dust". Every year it is the same. Every year the week before horses come, we are a bustle.

The buckets and feed tubs come out of the garage and are scrubbed again. The walls are swept free of cobwebs, the windows cleaned. The empty feed bin gets filled with salubrious smelling grain. The medicine shelf gets scrutinized anew. All expired medicines are thrown out. New essentials—Bute and Banamine, SMZ tablets, Ace and Dex—get ordered and put in place: LABELS OUT.

Why labels out? It might seem a Susanna draconian measure, but with many different people in the barn, some staff, some interns, some volunteers, things have a hard time finding their rightful homes. I can’t complain if occasional helpers don’t know where things belong, but I can harp about turning labels out, so that finding MIA meds, shampoos, or products of any kind is easier to do. If you have ever worked in a grocery store, you know.

One of the reasons we delayed the arrival of horses by a week was because I was worried about a lack of water. I have found if I don’t drain the waterers come December, they freeze up solid. Not only that, the pipes below ground tend to rupture come the first thaw. So that means that horses can only get water in the barn. But anyone who has dealt with stall  buckets in winter knows that they freeze up solid in record time. I was uneasy about our horses getting dehydrated. After all, when horses change environments, they tend to stress. When they stress, they drink less. If they drink at all; when water tastes “different” or “funny” from what they are used to many may avoid it. I didn’t need to kick off the season with a barnful of colicking horses! And I had no heated water buckets. At $27 to $30 a bucket, we’ve never been able to squeeze them into the budget. That’s where angels step in.  

I have always said that God loves the Secretariat Center. I have had lots of of proof of that over the years not knowing how things will work out, and worrying, and then something miraculous happens: a check arrives, a volunteer comes, the perfect adopter shows up, the angels step in. 

In this case, the angels’ names are Tom and Enid, a couple in their venerable years who volunteer at the MMSC regularly. Tom likes to work outside and with the horses (although he has even done the lowest of the low chores for us—CLEAN THE KITCHEN REFRIGERATOR!!!!).  Enid is whizz bang in the office. They show up with smiles. They bring boxes of chocolates. They are smart, funny, dedicated, and hardworking. They are interested in the MMSC because they have a grandson who lives out of state who loves horses. They are keen to learn. They read my blog.

Last week, in the barn up east where their daughter and grandson live, a horse colicked. Water buckets in stalls were frozen. My worries about MMSC and dehydrated horses and my request (in parentheses) for donated heated water buckets suddenly made sense to Tom and Enid. When they came to the MMSC this week, they brought a check to cover that cost. Bless them! Ask and you shall receive. It’s humbling.

Yesterday Shane, our landscape and handy man, came and adjusted the floats and plugged up the the paddock waterers. He had trouble finding the water valves to turn them on because of the snow, but he’ll be back tomorrow. The snow is melting and they should be in full view tomorrow.

Lilly, our barn manager, had a crew of interns and volunteers buffing every surface in the barn, cleaning tack, inventorying everything from hay bales to cleaning supplies.  

Our communications interns were hard at work in the office — cleaning every interior surface both because we are officially bringing horses back and because we are having a board meeting on Tuesday. 

Baby books for the incoming horses are prepped and ready to be filled with training notes and pictures. Blank training charts are ready on our clipboards. Potential adopters are scheduled to come before week’s end. 

I can’t wait for the first van to come in tomorrow morning, discharging horses that I picked out some time ago. Horses that spoke to me in some way or another that I felt called to help find a new job and a happy home. And then there are the horses that were here last fall that have been in foster care for two months. I know them already and what their horsenalities are. They are reschooled and ready for their second career  I just need for the right adopters to call. And as I said earlier, LET GO and LET GOD.  Their people will come. 

I can’t wait! More horses to help! More matches to make! It’s humbling. It’s exciting!  

Let the stories begin!

Cheery bye,
Susanna



Why is salubrious highlighted?  

Because it is the Blog Word of the Day: 

 Help us reach our goal of 112,000 total blog visitors this year! Join our Word of the Day contest and you could be entered in a grand prize drawing to win a $500 horse credit at the MMSC or a Breyer model of Secretariat signed by Secretariat’s jockey Ron Turcotte! Simply read the blog every Sunday and find the highlighted Word of the Day. Then write a sentence using the word and submit it to mmsc04@gmail.com for a chance to be entered to win! Please read the full contest details below before submitting an entry.
  • Blogs will be posted on Sundays. A chosen word will be highlighted within each blog post.
  • Sentences using the highlighted word must be emailed to mmsc04@gmail.com with the subject line “Word of the Day Contest”.
  • Entries may be submitted each week following a blog post from the posted time through Thursday at 5:00 pm.
  • Winners will be posted on the MMSC Facebook page each Friday following a blog post.
  • Entries must include the highlighted word of the day. The word of the day may be used in other parts of speech other than the one used in the blog, i.e. the highlighted word in the blog may be "malleability" but entrants may use the more common form "malleable" in their sentences.
  • Entries must also include the entrant’s full name (first and last) and email address.
  • Entrants may submit more than one sentence for consideration.
  • Sentences will be judged based on correct use of the word of the day, grammar and sentence structure, and creativity. 
  • Sentences will be judged by the MMSC staff, including MMSC Director Susanna Thomas, MMSC Barn and Media Manager Catherine Flowers, and MMSC Office Manager Lori Tobin.
  • Winners of each word of the day contest throughout the year will be entered in a grand prize drawing to win their choice of either a $500 horse credit toward an MMSC horse available for adoption or a Breyer model of Secretariat signed by Ron Turcotte. To use the $500 horse credit, the winner must become an approved adopter with the MMSC and follow all adoption policies and procedures.
  • The grand prize drawing will be held at the end of the year after Christmas and prior to New Year’s Eve.
  • Disclaimer: This contest does not have a connection with Blogspot or Facebook in any way and is not sponsored, supported, or organized by Blogspot or Facebook. The recipient of the information provided by you is not Blogspot or Facebook but the Maker's Mark Secretariat Center.

Blasted Winter Blasts!

The horses were supposed to come back to the MMSC tomorrow. But they are not. Blasted winter blasts! We had had such a benevolent January for the most part. We were due that, I thought, after last year’s Polar Vortex.

But no. Siberian air blasts brought record snows in Kentucky (and elsewhere!) and mind boggling low temperatures. I’ve been been fretting daily about the “clandestine pipe” in the ceiling above my office which burst at the first thaw. After it was fixed last year, we swaddled it in insulation and so far, it seems toasty. But still, I have been worried. And it ain’t over.

That’s why we decided to delay the arrival of the horses by a week. The upcoming weekly forecast looks dicey. A tad more temperate (20 degrees above zero as opposed to 20 below) but still well below freezing. I have learned in my seven winters at the MMSC that the paddock waterers don’t work in those temps. Worse, if you have them operative, the pipes below ground freeze and burst when the earth warms. Thus, I have learned the expensive way that it is best to drain the pipes when the last horse leaves in December and wait for spring. I did think about bringing the horses on anyway, and just turning them out for an hour or so to stretch their legs. But frozen water is still an issue. Buckets get solid in no time. And we have only three heated buckets (Would anyone like to donate ten or more to the MMSC???) So I worry about colic.

I especially worry about colic that first week the horses come to the MMSC. Changing environments is a stressor for them. Add to that a change of feed, and the aforementioned lack of water, and the equation adds up to TROUBLE at worst and WORRY at best.

And that’s not the only thing I worry about. I worry about our paddocks, too. Unless you have the expanse of the open range, any responsible horse farm owner needs to be thinking about safeguarding one’s paddocks. Why? Because healthy paddocks are your golden geese. Correctly managed, they save you money on hay, feed, and supplements.  If you do as we do at the MMSC and bring the horses into the barn only when they are worked, then you save money on bedding, labor, and diesel fuel (you have to dump the manure somewhere, right?).  In my mind, you save on vet bills too. Horses, even Thoroughbreds, are healthier outdoors, physically and mentally. Probably emotionally, too, if they are turned out in company. After all horses are social creatures.   

They are also nomadic. Which is part of the problem. I don’t want my golden geese to get pummeled to death. You put a foot or more of snow, then slush, then rain, and 11 thousand pounds of high speed and erratic traffic (that would be ten 1,100 pound horses cavorting) and your golden geese won’t look like much other than dirty, demolished, divoted detritus (remember by blog post in 2013, The first why?And that lush green grass won’t be coming back any time soon.  

So to save the paddocks, I would have to keep horses up most of the time until the weather breaks. That means loads of heavy lifting the manure of fretful horses that are in a new place and separated from their friends.  And what about training? Until we get a covered arena at the MMSC it’s hard to do much of anything in that regard.  When the temps are gelid, the arena is rock hard frozen. When the temps rise, the footing gets as unpredictable as quicksand. 

So for all these reasons, I reluctantly decided to push back the horses’ arrival a week.  It is disappointing because I was really looking forward to seeing them: Old friends that have been in foster care over the winter like Jazz Fest, my handsome hulking athlete, Harlan, my immature baby last fall that was just starting to grow up come December, Bordeaux Bandit, my war veteran that started in a claimer in May 2014 and was very “race-tracky” throughout the fall but now is roly-poly fat and has smiling eyes; Shooter, the little meteorite that always makes me smile that has been with the wonderful Melissa DeCarlo Recknor who worked for the MMSC for three years. 

I am looking forward to seeing the new faces as well. Souza, that I met at the racetrack in September screams ‘’E V E N T E R”.  Big, sweet, roman nosed Street Art or “Artie” that floats like a butterfly when he trots. Beachview Two that was with us briefly last year, but needed ankle chips removed to stay sound is returning all healed from his surgery. I love Beachview’s winsome hors-ona. He is bright as an otter and very interactive. And he has grown and filled out too! Slight and slender last year, he bloomed over the fall and winter.

Also in the spring class is Rondo, a horse that has the worst registered name EVER, Pain Giver, but is anything but that, and has started reschooling already and is jumping courses! The lovely Irish bred Loukas is coming from California. There are the three fillies:  Angel, Shannon, and Simple Truth.  Angel will go many miles under saddle. Shannon needs a little girl in pig tails. Simple Truth is gray and gorgeous and belongs in the show ring. 

And I have others, too, waiting in the wings, that I am excited about.  Oh well, in the scheme of eternity, what’s another week? Here’s to hoping the snow melts and that the pipes hold fast!

Cheery bye,
Susanna

Why is detritus highlighted?  

Because it is the Blog Word of the Day: 

 Help us reach our goal of 112,000 total blog visitors this year! Join our Word of the Day contest and you could be entered in a grand prize drawing to win a $500 horse credit at the MMSC or a Breyer model of Secretariat signed by Secretariat’s jockey Ron Turcotte! Simply read the blog every Sunday and find the highlighted Word of the Day. Then write a sentence using the word and submit it to mmsc04@gmail.com for a chance to be entered to win! Please read the full contest details below before submitting an entry.
  • Blogs will be posted on Sundays. A chosen word will be highlighted within each blog post.
  • Sentences using the highlighted word must be emailed to mmsc04@gmail.com with the subject line “Word of the Day Contest”.
  • Entries may be submitted each week following a blog post from the posted time through Thursday at 5:00 pm.
  • Winners will be posted on the MMSC Facebook page each Friday following a blog post.
  • Entries must include the highlighted word of the day. The word of the day may be used in other parts of speech other than the one used in the blog, i.e. the highlighted word in the blog may be "malleability" but entrants may use the more common form "malleable" in their sentences.
  • Entries must also include the entrant’s full name (first and last) and email address.
  • Entrants may submit more than one sentence for consideration.
  • Sentences will be judged based on correct use of the word of the day, grammar and sentence structure, and creativity. 
  • Sentences will be judged by the MMSC staff, including MMSC Director Susanna Thomas, MMSC Barn and Media Manager Catherine Flowers, and MMSC Office Manager Lori Tobin.
  • Winners of each word of the day contest throughout the year will be entered in a grand prize drawing to win their choice of either a $500 horse credit toward an MMSC horse available for adoption or a Breyer model of Secretariat signed by Ron Turcotte. To use the $500 horse credit, the winner must become an approved adopter with the MMSC and follow all adoption policies and procedures.
  • The grand prize drawing will be held at the end of the year after Christmas and prior to New Year’s Eve.
  • Disclaimer: This contest does not have a connection with Blogspot or Facebook in any way and is not sponsored, supported, or organized by Blogspot or Facebook. The recipient of the information provided by you is not Blogspot or Facebook but the Maker's Mark Secretariat Center.

Spring interns, Shakespeare, and the Road to the Horse

Saturday, February 14 was Valentine’s Day. It also was the beginning of our spring internship. There are four interns this semester: Nicole from Asbury University, Taylor from the University of Kentucky, Maggie from the University of Louisville, and Sharon from Eastern Kentucky University. Nicole and Taylor are doing the Training and Barn Management internship, Maggie and Sharon the Communications and Business one. They will be with us for eight to ten hours a week for the next twelve weeks. During that time they are going to work hard, but, I assure them, they will have fun, and they will learn too. That’s my pledge to them as it is to every intern who comes to the MMSC. As I do with every horse that comes into my program, I make a commitment to every intern—I want to know what they want to be when they grow up and how the MMSC can help them take worthy steps in that direction.  
Nicole, Taylor, Maggie, and Sharon are the MMSC spring 2015 interns

Their pledge is to support Team MMSC. Quit not when your work is done, but when EVERYONE’S WORK IS DONE. Never be idle. Never be negative, or catty, or undermining.  I have no time for those things, and therefore zero tolerance. They all learned that during their initial interviews. 

Now they are at orientation. They hear it again. Along with a lot of other things: The MMSC ethos (Quality, Excellence, Transparency, Honesty), the construct of the Horse Center Reschooling Program℠, a methodology I developed and brought to the MMSC, Susanna’s principles of Horsemanship, the MMSC “elevator speech,” MMSC rules, MMSC schedule, the MMSC ‘Word of the Day.’

“All roads lead to Rome,” I tell them. The girls look at me blankly. “Have any of you ever heard that expression before?” They give me slightly raised eyebrows and sheepish shrugs.

The Romans built over 250,000 miles of roads
 throughout their empire
So they get a brief history lesson about the Roman empire and Rome’s building of roads throughout its dominions so it could travel expeditiously and bring products and wealth back to the seat of power.

“So what I mean by that expression is that while each of you has different interests and reasons for doing an internship here and all of you will be working in different ways on different projects, you will all be working to serve the interests of the MMSC.”

They are given a contract to read and to sign, and a sheet with three goals that they would like to achieve for themselves whilst they are at the MMSC. They are asked to fill out a schedule with the hours that they promise to be at the Center.

“How many hours would you like?” they ask.  

“As many hours as you can give, and then some.” 

They all respond enthusiastically about how much they intend to be there.

“That’s good. Because I fully intend to get a pound of flesh from each of you!”

I look at each one and realize they have no idea what I mean.

“Has anyone every heard that expression before, ‘to extract a pound of flesh?”

No.

“Has any one every heard of the play, The Merchant of Venice?”

No.

“Hmmm. Do any of you know who William Shakespeare is?!”

At last their faces light up.

“A pound of flesh is a reference to a situation in The Merchant of Venice…but I am not going to tell why or what.” Instead I assign two of them the homework of coming back the next week with a synopsis of the play and an explanation of the pound of flesh.

I then send them out with Catherine, our Program Coordinator, to tour the International Museum of the Horse at the Kentucky Horse Park. 

“I want you to go to the museum so that you have an understanding of the inextricable link between horses and mankind. It’s great that you are coming to the MMSC to intern, but I want you always to think about the bigger picture. We are so much more than just a small Center. We are part of an industry, a tradition, a history. Come back in an hour and a half and each of you tell me three things that you learned there today. My hope is that this trip to the musuem will engender lots of scintillating conversation amongst you… Any one know what engender means? Hmmm, I see, that’s the MMSC word of the day!”

I laugh at myself and tell them that I am “draconian", a word that none of my interns from any season has ever known. So I digress briefly to tell them about Draco, the unforgiving Athenian lawmaker of the 7th century.

“I am draconian about a lot of things: Cleanliness in the barn, idle hands, no-show behaviors. Beware!”

So begins another internship class. It will be fun getting to know these four young ladies and to see if and how they rise to the occasion. 

The next day, I woke up and after feeding my own horses, breaking ice on their water trough, throwing them extra hay, readjusting their blankets, I decided to come in, make a fire (using the former Christmas tree as kindling!), and to challenge myself to rise to the occasion of reading The Merchant of Venice. I last read it in high school. I decided as I had asked the girls to look into it, that I had better do so too. After all, you gotta walk the talk, right?

Shylock wants his pound
 of flesh.
So I settle in by the blazing fire with a big cup of coffee and the complete works of William Shakespeare. It takes a few minutes to get into the rhythm of  the 400 year old English, but I’m there in no time. Antonio, a noble merchant from Venice borrows money from a Jewish money lender, Shylock, to help his best friend Bassanio win over the girl of his dreams, Portia. Shylock has an age-old vendetta against Antonio and insists if Antonio defaults on the loan that it be repaid with a “pound of flesh.”

The construct of the play is typically Shakespearean: Lovers who have a hard time getting together, “fools” who are the wisest members of the cast, and cross dressing women characters who are way smarter than the men. Pretty formulaic.  

What’s not formulaic are the ideas that explode from the pages: 

The sinuouy nature of the law. Religious intolerance. Inflexibility. Vengeance. Mercy.

As the French say, “the more things change, the more they stay the same.” 

And so it is with human nature. 

I come away from the play thinking how litigious people were then and continue to be now, how clever lawyers could and do “spin” arguments.  I think about society today, all the forms of insurance we have to protect ourselves against liability claims, especially those of us who work with large, unpredictable animals, like horses.  

I think about antisemitism, about Shylock’s life long pent up rage about the discrimination he has endured, how unfair religious intolerance is, how deep the wounds it creates and how desctructive those become. Shylock’s anger twists him and becomes his downfall. I then take a leap and think about the perils of taking one’s rage out on horses, about what can happen if one doesn’t seek underlying motives for a horse’s behaviors. To be a good horse trainer, you have to practice compassion. 

It is not hard for me to extrapolate from the world around me lessons that can be learned to make me a better horsewoman. Horses are my Rome. Every day, no matter where life takes me, I am always looking for the road to the Horse.

I hope that the spring interns look for some of those roads while they are at the MMSC.

Cheery bye,
Susanna


Why is engender highlighted?  

Because it is the Blog Word of the Day: 

 Help us reach our goal of 112,000 total blog visitors this year! Join our Word of the Day contest and you could be entered in a grand prize drawing to win a $500 horse credit at the MMSC or a Breyer model of Secretariat signed by Secretariat’s jockey Ron Turcotte! Simply read the blog every Sunday and find the highlighted Word of the Day. Then write a sentence using the word and submit it to mmsc04@gmail.com for a chance to be entered to win! Please read the full contest details below before submitting an entry.
  • Blogs will be posted on Sundays. A chosen word will be highlighted within each blog post.
  • Sentences using the highlighted word must be emailed to mmsc04@gmail.com with the subject line “Word of the Day Contest”.
  • Entries may be submitted each week following a blog post from the posted time through Thursday at 5:00 pm.
  • Winners will be posted on the MMSC Facebook page each Friday following a blog post.
  • Entries must include the highlighted word of the day. The word of the day may be used in other parts of speech other than the one used in the blog, i.e. the highlighted word in the blog may be "malleability" but entrants may use the more common form "malleable" in their sentences.
  • Entries must also include the entrant’s full name (first and last) and email address.
  • Entrants may submit more than one sentence for consideration.
  • Sentences will be judged based on correct use of the word of the day, grammar and sentence structure, and creativity. 
  • Sentences will be judged by the MMSC staff, including MMSC Director Susanna Thomas, MMSC Barn and Media Manager Catherine Flowers, and MMSC Office Manager Lori Tobin.
  • Winners of each word of the day contest throughout the year will be entered in a grand prize drawing to win their choice of either a $500 horse credit toward an MMSC horse available for adoption or a Breyer model of Secretariat signed by Ron Turcotte. To use the $500 horse credit, the winner must become an approved adopter with the MMSC and follow all adoption policies and procedures.
  • The grand prize drawing will be held at the end of the year after Christmas and prior to New Year’s Eve.
  • Disclaimer: This contest does not have a connection with Blogspot or Facebook in any way and is not sponsored, supported, or organized by Blogspot or Facebook. The recipient of the information provided by you is not Blogspot or Facebook but the Maker's Mark Secretariat Center.

Of Christmas Trees, Service, Horses, and Purpose

I put my Christmas tree up on December 23rd. I took it down about four weeks later. By then the needles dropped torrentially every time I inadvertently brushed the drooping branches in passing. 

I wrestle with my conscience every year when I buy a live cut tree. It seems so sad, standing resplendently in the corner of my living room slowly dying, a symbol of the fleeting nature of the Christmas season and of the transience of life in general. Yet, I can’t seem to make myself buy an artificial one. I love the smell of  spruce. I delight when the sap oozes from its knobby twig ends. It reminds me of my beloved state of Maine. I savor its presence while it is with me, and when the time comes to take it down, I cut off its branches and break them into kindling for the fireplace. In doing so, I continue to honor it until the last of the tree is burnt and the crocuses have sprung up.



The tree represents a cycle of life and a way of living authentically that are important to me. Yes, life is seasonal. Things come and go. All the more reason to recognize the present with its many gifts. “Take  your cookies when they are passed,” a beloved mentor of mine used to tell me. “And savor them,” I would add. And “be grateful.” 

And so I am for my tree, every Christmas. Grateful for its beauty. Grateful for its reminder that being of service to the bitter end (i.e. as kindling in the fireplace!) is the greatest gift of all.

I feel the same way about horses. Grateful. That’s why I do what I do at the Maker’s Mark Secretariat Center. Horses have given me so much throughout my lifetime: 

Joy. Purpose. Love. Solace. Understanding. Insight. Forgiveness. Patience. Direction. Focus. 

And, so much more!




Talk about being of service! Not just to me! But to humankind in general! We crossed continents, conquered nations, created civilizations with horses. They pulled our carriages, hauled our goods, fought our wars. We drank their milk. We ate (and some still do eat) their flesh. We used their hair to insulate our walls; their hooves to make our glue. To this day, they play our games. They provide us with livelihoods. Like the Christmas tree, they are beautiful and, like the tree, they are silent. I want to recognize their service to me and to others across the globe past and present, by helping one race horse  at the MMSC at a time to find its purpose and its person when it no longer has a use on the track. I strive to be each horse’s voice, its champion, its defender. I am very particular about who adopts my horses.  Adopters fill out a multi-faceted application and submit it for approval by members of the MMSC board. Once they are approved, they must come to the MMSC to try the horse and prove to me that the fit is a good one.

It may seem crazy to be so exigent—why,when so many horses need homes am I this selective?  

It all boils down to my sense of purpose. As I told you when I first started writing this blog, purpose is important to me. Purpose gives life meaning--that is if you commit to serving something greater than yourself. 

When I was ten, my family moved to France, which had socialized medicine that covered the costs of my brothers medical care. He had severe classical hemophilia. I had to navigate the public transportation system of Paris on my own to get to and from school every day. I sat in classes when I didn’t understand a word. I felt scared, vulnerable, and helpless.

My brothers condition incited those feelings too. Throughout my childhood, I watched him endure devastating internal joint and soft tissue bleeds. I wanted so much to help him, to prevent the bleeding episodes. But I could do nothing. 

But, horses were always there for me to help me through: In books, in films, on street corners. We lived right next to the barracks of the famous Garde Republicaine - the French mounted guard, and I could hear the clip-clops of the horses’ shoes reverberating on the the pavement right over the wall behind my family’s apartment! 



The example of a horse’s service, generosity, stoicism always inspired me. It still does. And humbles me too. 

That childhood fear, sense of vulnerability and helplessness, paved the way to my purpose. As the Portuguese saying goes, “God writes straight on crooked lines.” I have traveled along a bunch of crooked lines. And that is a very good thing. I know what it is like for a horse to live in a world where is doesnt speak the language. I know how horses feel when they try their best to please yet their efforts are not recognized or are misinterpreted. I can relate viscerally to the terrorizing threat of losing someone important in your “herd”.

That is why every person who gets a MMSC horse must prove first his or her ability to keep and properly care for it. When they come to the MMSC I watch the horse’s reactions to see what it has to say about the match. I am committed to trying to understand the language and the issues of every horse that comes through the program. 

I move about 35 to 40 horses a year through the MMSC. That many not seem like many in relation to a yearly foal crop in the twenty thousands. I remind myself, however, that a cistern is filled one drop at a time. A journey of 1,000 miles begins with a single step. If I commit myself every day to living in authenticity and in the service to something bigger than myself, then each pure drop, and each true step will make a difference. One horse, one person, one smile at a time. 

Those of you who live on purpose know from your own experiences how rewarding every small service can be. For those of you who may still be searching for your purpose, listen to your small inner voice. That’s your “Garmin,” your inner GPS. It may or may not lead you to material riches, but it will, I assure you, always lead you to a path replete with unexpected and truly marvelous treasures. 

Cheery bye,
Susanna




Why is exigent highlighted?  

Because it is the Blog Word of the Day: 

 Help us reach our goal of 112,000 total blog visitors this year! Join our Word of the Day contest and you could be entered in a grand prize drawing to win a $500 horse credit at the MMSC or a Breyer model of Secretariat signed by Secretariat’s jockey Ron Turcotte! Simply read the blog every Sunday and find the highlighted Word of the Day. Then write a sentence using the word and submit it to mmsc04@gmail.com for a chance to be entered to win! Please read the full contest details below before submitting an entry.
  • Blogs will be posted on Sundays. A chosen word will be highlighted within each blog post.
  • Sentences using the highlighted word must be emailed to mmsc04@gmail.com with the subject line “Word of the Day Contest”.
  • Entries may be submitted each week following a blog post from the posted time through Thursday at 5:00 pm.
  • Winners will be posted on the MMSC Facebook page each Friday following a blog post.
  • Entries must include the highlighted word of the day. The word of the day may be used in other parts of speech other than the one used in the blog, i.e. the highlighted word in the blog may be "malleability" but entrants may use the more common form "malleable" in their sentences.
  • Entries must also include the entrant’s full name (first and last) and email address.
  • Entrants may submit more than one sentence for consideration.
  • Sentences will be judged based on correct use of the word of the day, grammar and sentence structure, and creativity. 
  • Sentences will be judged by the MMSC staff, including MMSC Director Susanna Thomas, MMSC Barn and Media Manager Catherine Flowers, and MMSC Office Manager Lori Tobin.
  • Winners of each word of the day contest throughout the year will be entered in a grand prize drawing to win their choice of either a $500 horse credit toward an MMSC horse available for adoption or a Breyer model of Secretariat signed by Ron Turcotte. To use the $500 horse credit, the winner must become an approved adopter with the MMSC and follow all adoption policies and procedures.
  • The grand prize drawing will be held at the end of the year after Christmas and prior to New Year’s Eve.
  • Disclaimer: This contest does not have a connection with Blogspot or Facebook in any way and is not sponsored, supported, or organized by Blogspot or Facebook. The recipient of the information provided by you is not Blogspot or Facebook but the Maker's Mark Secretariat Center. 


Reflections 2015

HEEEEELLLLOOOO 2015!!!!

How wonderful is it to start another year!? I don’t know about you, but I am excited. So much to do. So many possibilities. And more horses. I love that part. And, it seems, that you, DEAR READERS, do too!

I say that because I have been elated by the interest in and the growth of the MMSC blog, particularly in the last two years when I decided to author the entries. 

The MMSC blog began in the summer of 2008. My first, and at that time, only intern, was Natalie Voss, a student at the University of Kentucky. Natalie introduced me to Facebook and told me about an odd thing called a “Web log” or “blog.” I was intrigued. I told her to create a presence for the MMSC with both.

When Natalie left the MMSC (and went on after graduation to become a successful equine journalist!), the blog she had started was passed to communications interns as a regular writing assignment. 

I talked to each student about writing in general and blog writing specifically, read their work, gently edited their pieces and basically forgot about their posts. Until the week between Christmas and New Year’s in 2012 when I came down with a chest cold. In my “down time,” I decided to reread the blog from the beginning.  

It was a fun. Illuminating too. In the four and a half years since the blog’s inception, we had had 14,000 visitors! 3,000 plus visits a year! A lightening bolt ricocheted through my brain: Blogs have impact!

I lay in bed thinking about how to use the blog as a tool for the MMSC’s message and mission. Could I learn to wield it? How far could my reach go? Who would read it? I set a goal for myself (I tend to do that—especially around New Year’s resolution time). In one year’s time, I decided I would double the total number of visits we had had since 2008, going from 14,000 to 28,000!

It was hard to find the time and the discipline to write. I’d do it on my day off when I had many other things I should have been doing such as riding my own horses. It was laborious. Writing isn’t easy. At least not for me. But by the end of 2013, I had achieved my goal: 28,000 and change! It seemed it was working. There were people out there interested in what we were doing. So I decided to keep the blog up for another year, and I set myself another benchmark: Double the total visitors again in twelve months from 28,000 visits to 56,000. 

Amazingly, I achieved that goal, too.

As the months passed in 2014, I became riveted to the blog’s stats page with bated breath, watching the numbers grow, looking for patterns of readership. At what time and on what days did readers open the blog? And from where? I was dumbfounded and humbled to see as the year progressed how the audience expanded beyond the United States, spreading to Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Japan, the Netherlands, New Zealand, the Philippines, Poland, Romania, Russia, Spain, Sweden, and the UK. My largest weekly audience besides the US was, of all places, the Ukraine! Why was that? Do Ukrainians love racing? Or Thoroughbreds? Or America?  

What about the readers in Egypt, Romania, Manila, Moldova, Namibia, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, Sri Lanka, and Venezuela? Or the places that would pop up on the stats page, small republics that I had never heard of and which I had to Google to see where in the world they were located. How did these people find the blog? Why were they reading it?

Obviously, it was because of the horses. The Thoroughbreds. That run fast. That capture hearts with their speed, beauty, and mystique. 

And perhaps too, it was propelled by the curiosity in what happens to them when their when the glory days are over, when the last race is run? Are former racehorses overlooked, misunderstood, and discarded? Do they have a chance at redemption?

Yes. No. Maybe. The outcomes are many, and different, and nuanced.

Thus begins another year, and I have seen that there are people across the globe who enjoy hearing about some of these horses and their outcomes. And I can also see from the stats, that some people are intrigued by the challenges of running a non for profit in the aftercare industry, and want to read about how we fit in and how we  are trying to influence the bigger picture.

Every one of you out there, thank you for reading and for caring. Because of you, I will continue to labor away at my writing on my day off. And, of course, I have set myself that same blasted goal: DOUBLE THE TOTAL VISITS IN ONE YEAR.  That means by the end of 2015, the MMSC blog will have had 112,000 visits!

OYE! Alright DEAR READERS, this is where you come in. I need your help to share this blog with all whom you know, not once, not twice, but regularly. Let’s make this happen. Let’s spread the word. Concentric circles, remember? Together, let’s spread the word about the value and versatility of Thoroughbred horses in athletic endeavors.

But I will make it fun to do so. Those who know me, know that I am in love with the English language. I marvel at its breadth and malleability, its power and poignancy. I am in awe of anyone alive or dead who can wield it with dexterity. Those who can are mighty and mesmerizing. I try, as I can, to emulate them. Which can be confusing for my interns. I always know when talking to them when I have obfuscated them with a word (swaddled them in a clueless fog). Their eyes and faces go blank. As they are at the MMSC to learn not just about horses, but how to go forth in life, I challenge them on the spot:

“That’s the Word of the Day. Come back to me tomorrow with its definition and use it properly in a sentence.”

It’s a bit daunting for them at first, but in no time, they fall into step, and very shortly, they learn to appreciate the weighty import of the King’s English. Like baby birds fluttering fledgling wings, they begin to banter and spar verbally with one another. They giggle and delight with their new found verbal arms. By internship’s end, they know how to fly (and where to fly to if they can’t figure out a word!), and they are grateful for my antics.

It’s fun. Ask any of my interns, current or past. So in 2015, let’s spread that fun across the globe to all who are interested in the MMSC. In doing so, you’ll help me reach my goal of 112,000. You will also be in the running for a prize! Read the rules below. And now, ONWARDS towards a great 2015 full of adventures, stories and WORDS!

Cheery bye,

Susanna


MMSC Blog Word of the Day Contest Details


You can be a part of helping us reach our goal of 112,000 total blog visitors this year! Join our Word of the Day contest and you could be entered in a grand prize drawing to win a $500 horse credit at the MMSC or a Breyer model of Secretariat signed by Secretariat’s jockey Ron Turcotte! Simply read the blog every Sunday and find the highlighted Word of the Day. Then write a sentence using the word and submit it to mmsc04@gmail.com for a chance to be entered to win! Please read the full contest details below before submitting an entry

  • Blogs will be posted on Sundays. A chosen word will be highlighted within each blog post.
  • Sentences using the highlighted word must be emailed to mmsc04@gmail.com with the subject line “Word of the Day Contest”.
  • Entries may be submitted each week following a blog post from the posted time through Thursday at 5:00 pm.
  • Winners will be posted on the MMSC Facebook page each Friday following a blog post.
  • Entries must include the highlighted word of the day. The word of the day may be used in other parts of speech other than the one used in the blog, i.e. the highlighted word in the blog may be "malleability" but entrants may use the more common form "malleable" in their sentences.
  • Entries must also include the entrant’s full name (first and last) and email address.
  • Entrants may submit more than one sentence for consideration.
  • Sentences will be judged based on correct use of the word of the day, grammar and sentence structure, and creativity.
  • Sentences will be judged by the MMSC staff, including MMSC Director Susanna Thomas, MMSC Barn and Media Manager Catherine Flowers, and MMSC Office Manager Lori Tobin.
  • Winners of each word of the day contest throughout the year will be entered in a grand prize drawing to win their choice of either a $500 horse credit toward an MMSC horse available for adoption or a Breyer model of Secretariat signed by Ron Turcotte. To use the $500 horse credit, the winner must become an approved adopter with the MMSC and follow all adoption policies and procedures.
  • The grand prize drawing will be held at the end of the year after Christmas and prior to New Year’s Eve.
  • Disclaimer: This contest does not have a connection with Blogspot or Facebook in any way and is not sponsored, supported, or organized by Blogspot or Facebook. The recipient of the information provided by you is not Blogspot or Facebook but the Maker's Mark Secretariat Center.

'Twas the Night Before Christmas

’Twas the night before Christmas at the MMSC, 
                              the office was quiet, the paddocks were free,
              the horses had left as our season had ended,
                after the year’s full court press, a rest would be splendid!

It started in January with a great artic chill,
so pipes were left dripping—we all know the drill,
but there was one pesky faucet we completely forgot.
 When we arrived in the morning, we were very distraught!

The office was flooded, our files were afloat,
had we come any later, we’d have needed a boat.
The water was gushing full force from the ceiling,
The carpets were ruined, the wall paint was peeling.

So we shut down the main and donned tall rubber boots, 
and went sopping and mopping with the vengeance of brutes.
Three months in one room we all huddled together                      
awaiting repairs and a change in the weather.

But the days remained nippy, the ground covered with snow,the footing was terrible and our training was slow,
people were hesitant to come try what we had,
which set back our total adoptions a tad.

When spring finally came
 a month or more late,
we opened all cylinders and took off at full spate,
our interns, our volunteers, our hardworking board,
helped us to get rolling ’til our telephones roared.


With visitors, adopters, horse lovers and guests,
making appointments to see what we love and do best:
reschooling fine racehorses both lovely and clever
as breed ambassadors in all new endeavors.

As eventers and hunters and jumpers and more,
with such talented horses, it’s hard to keep score!
We gave tours, demonstrations, and created connections
with aftercare colleagues to share predilections. 

In July came the titans with an incredible scheme, 
to help one of them, Jeffy, to fulfill a big dream,
to claim as his own the great Nowheretohide,
“He’s too fast,” said Susanna. “Do you know how to ride?”

"Not, yet,” Jeffy said with a big Shrek-like grin,
“But I’m a really good athlete and I know how to win.
I’ll read all the books. I’ll take daily lessons.
I’ll call every Sunday, til he’s in my possession.”

At the MMSC we let all horses choose,
which to some might seem odd, though it’s a practical ruse,
For if you don’t watch a rider, and your eye’s not discerning
there’s a 100% chance that horse is returning!


Noah made his decision and at Sips N Saddles Jeff spoke
of how he felt about his racehorse. It made the crowd choke.
This party’s success and our daily existence
we owe to our angel volunteers’ assistance.

“On Peggy! On Jackie! On Laurie! On Dave!
On Enid! On Tom! On volunteers brave!!
Pull weeds in the front, blow the aisles in the stable,
File the bills, mop the floors, clean the tack if you’ re able.”

“Curry Jake. Water Tidings. Soak Regiment’s foot.
A Theraplate session for Bordeaux would be good.
“To the top of the loft! And be careful, dont fall!
                                                    Lob five bales of alfalfa! Susanna did call.


And so went each month jammed pack to the brink
that December arrived in a breath and a blink!
So we’ll go home for Christmas to our loved ones and guests,
To muse and give thanks for how the Center's been blessed.

We’ll be back after New Year’s with new vigor and vision
to share and impart our  Center's grand mission,
to give racehorses new jobs, broadcasting their worth
as the best equine athletes alive on this Earth!

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all!

Susanna

Double Minded, aka “Dublin, here posing as Santa Hoss, last raced in November of this year!
His  second career clearly is in film!!!